Level Up Your National School Lunch Week Program with These Creative and Fun Ideas

Celebrate National School Lunch Week with these creative ideas to gain participation and involvement.

Level Up 2023 National School Lunch Week

National School Lunch Week (NSLW) is back and ready to groove! This year’s theme? “Level Up!” This year’s celebration runs from October 9-13, 2023 and brings a great opportunity for school nutrition programs across the country to promote their programs and celebrate school lunch.

Celebrating National School Lunch Week provides an amazing opportunity for districts and Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) departments to shine a light on the great things your program is doing. NSLW is an excellent opportunity to get students excited about school lunch and to boost participation in your lunch program. To get you in the spirit we’ve put together a few benefits of celebrating NSLW at your school.

Set the Scene to Boost School Lunch Participation

National School Lunch Week is the perfect time to get creative with your team. Build on of SNA’s theme to celebrate and boost participation in your nutrition program. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing the look of excitement and joy in students’ eyes as they walk into the freshly decorated lunchroom.

Have fun! Grab a fun costume or accessories and jazz up your lunch line with decorations.

  • A new environment can get students excited to celebrate and spark their interest in trying new menu options.
  • Students who don’t usually eat in the lunchroom will see their friends participating and want to join in on the fun.
  • Dress in funky costumes to interact with students as they walk through your lines.

Unlock Featured Menu Items

Keeping with the Level Up theme, “unlocking” new or favorite menu items can be an exciting way to get students engaged and drive participation. If you’ve been considering a new item for your menu, this is the week to launch it. Alternatively, shake things up by moving a favorite item to a different day–like shifting “Pizza Friday” to Wednesday.

Even adding a twist to a favorite item could be a fun way for students to try new flavors and learn about different nutrients. it could be as simple as using a different kind of cheese in grilled cheese sandwiches, or even adding a pineapple option to pizza. Then, ask students to vote on their preferences or submit their thoughts on the new item.

New Day, New World

Video games often feature new worlds that player advances through. The shift from one to the next can be as drastic as moving from a tropical rainforest environment to outer space. Bringing a video game developer’s imagination to the school cafeteria can build anticipation for lunch each day. Consider different decorations to give your lunch room a different, unexpected look each day of NSLW.

Here are a few tips to pull off the video game look and feel:

  • Place a “Level 1” sign at the entrance on Monday, then advance the level each day
  • Get creative with decorations you already have–create winter, spring, and school spirit worlds
  • Put “Power Up” decals near trash and recycling receptacles and “Bonus Points” signs on healthy food choices
  • Name each day’s world and poll students at the end of the week to find out their favorite

Boost Nutrition Team Motivation

The last few years have been quite challenging for food and nutrition professionals. Food service employees fill an essential role in student outcomes making sure they are well-fed and smiling. A key ingredient to retaining employees and keeping them motivated is recognition. NSLW is a great time to publicly recognize members of your team.

  • Make it a collaborative affair. Have team members vote for their fellow coworkers who exemplify excellence, and work hard to serve nutritious meals for students to enjoy.
  • Snap a picture of your lunchroom superstar and post it in the lunchroom or on social media for all to see.
  • Does your school do announcements? Promote NSLW and give a shout-out to the team member celebrated by their peers.

Make it Sharable on Social Media

Encourage each school to share the fun they’re having with NSLW. Create a background for taking photos, or design a hand-held photo frame for students and staff to use that celebrates the “Level Up” theme. That could mean celebrating nutritious food choices, reducing waste, recycling, and/or students’ food favorites. Sharing on social is a great way to get families involved in the fun, too. Also, remember to tag each post with #NSLW23 so it’s easily searchable.

Thanks to all of the food nutrition professionals who provide nourishing meals for our students so they are ready to learn. We salute all of the individuals who make school food service possible each day and hope that you enjoy a next-level NSLW this year.