By Phoebe Melnick
Updated September 16, 2016
Credit: © Christopher Futcher/Getty Images

The cafeteria hierarchy is a well-established institution at middle schools and high schools around the country. And unless you’re fortunate enough to be one of the “cool kids,” lunch can be a pretty lonely experience—many an awkward teen lives with the dread of having no one to eat with and nowhere to sit. But school lunch has joined the Internet of Things and now there’s an app to help navigate the cafeteria. Sixteen-year-old Natalie Hampton designed the app Sit With Us to help encourage inclusion in schools across the country.

The app was born out of Hampton’s tough experience at school where she felt rejected and alone. After changing schools and discovering her place there, Hampton knew she needed to come up with a way to help the kids who ate lunch alone. She hated the idea that any other kid would be going through what she went through at her old school. She developed the free lunch planning app that allows kids to sign up as ambassadors and post open lunches. These ambassadors pledge to be kind to each other and to welcome whoever sits down at the table. A student who has the app can see the open lunch posting, join the table and maybe make a few new friends.

This app takes out the discomfort and possible rejection she used to face when asking if she could sit at a table with other classmates. “This way, it's very private. It's through the phone. No one else has to know. And you know that you're not going to be rejected once you get to the table,“ Hampton told NPR. While the app only just launched, Hampton said the results have been positive and kids are already starting to use the app during lunch. She hopes the app will help to make lunch a less stressful and more inclusive environment for other students.