Ky. teachers go TikTok viral with lunch bunch videos, sharing ‘glimpses of who we are’

Nicki Caudill and her close friends and fellow staff members at Johnson Central High School have eaten lunch together for years in teacher Amiee Webb’s room, talking about their families, their lives — and what they are eating.

The teachers in Paintsville, in eastern Kentucky, were having such a good time that one day in 2023, Caudill said, she got the idea to video them sharing what they were having for lunch and put it on TiKTok.

She changed the name of her personal TikTok account to “JCHS Lunch Bunch.”

“We talk about our lunch, we talk about our family, we laugh at each other, we make fun of ... what we eat. We just got people interested in us. It just took off from there. It’s wild,” Caudill told the Herald-Leader on Friday.

“We thought she was crazy when she did it but we had fun with it,” Webb said. “A couple of weeks later, we had positive feedback, so we just rolled with it.”

Their TikTok account had at least 28,400 followers as of this week and drew attention from The Washington Post.

The concept is simple: Each video features a short clip of each staff member describing what they brought for lunch that day.

A few of their videos have gotten more than half a million views.

The staff show off a variety of tastes in lunchtime cuisine, from Taco Bell burritos to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, leftover homemade tomato soup from dinner the night before to a school lunch tray laden with fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Along the way, the staff share laughs and offer tidbits about what’s going on in their lives — one is out sick with a stomach bug, another tried to order a $5 sandwich from Subway, only to end up voiding the deal by adding bacon and paying $15.98 for a sub and chips.

They clearly like to have fun with their audience.

In a March 14 video, they teased, “We have a big announcement. One of us is pregnant, and we want you to guess.” Before sharing their lunches that day, seven staffers lined up and introduced themselves so viewers could share their guesses in the comments about who the mom-to-be was.

Sometimes, they answer questions from viewers in subsequent videos, sharing a recipe for spaghetti squash casserole in one and in another showing details of popcorn seasonings one staff member uses to add flavor to apple slices.

“All these, if you use a quarter teaspoon or less, are zero points on Weight Watchers, and they make apples absolutely delicious,” the off-camera videographer says.

When viewers wanted to know how they manage to get lunch from restaurants during the short lunch breaks allotted to schools, they made a video showing an aerial map of the school with all the eateries nearby.

Caudill posts on TikTok Monday through Friday during the school year and Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the summer, with teachers in the group sending Caudill videos to post. Fans told them they couldn’t go all summer without the videos, Caudill said.

A video might contain good-natured teasing about tuna fish that looks “soupy” or weird eaters, teachers who won’t put sauces on their foods, she said.

Weight Watchers has sent the group lunches and given them merchandise. Other food companies sent shakes and salads. State education officials and a TV meteorologist have stopped in for lunch.

Webb said between 10 and 14 teachers show up every day.

“We always have just been friends and I think that shows,” said Webb. “A lot of us do things together outside of class.”

She said the group is “pretty open” on the videos. They share health journeys, kids and vacations.

“We try to share little glimpses of who we are,” she said.