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April 2012: Additional NSLW 2012 Ideas

Go Big
In the April 2012 issue of School Nutrition, SNA announced the theme for National School Lunch Week (NSLW) 2012: “School Lunch: What’s Cooking?” NSLW is a great opportunity early in the school year to share positive messages about your school nutrition program.

But whether it’s NSLW in specific or your program in general, you should be looking for every opportunity to reach members of the community with the achievements and success stories of your program. Sharlene Wong, SNS, school nutrition director for Wallingford (Conn.) School District, has a bevy of tried-and-true suggestions; here’s just a sampling of her recommendations:

  • When sharing news about your program via e-mail, be sure to copy your superintendent and school board members to keep them up to date on your operation’s happenings so that they can advocate for your program.
  • Plan a series of evening culinary events at your town’s library or other local meeting place. “I’ve used the town library to do cooking demonstrations around the time of various holidays,” Wong reports. Send a special invitation to parents. Consider centering your demonstration on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. This offers a two-fold benefit: Not only do parents gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of your program’s efforts, but a cooking demonstration that teaches parents “how to make something like butternut squash or broccoli slaw may encourage them to prepare it at home,” explains Wong, adding that when introducing students to new foods, “Usually the battle is getting the child to try a new vegetable. Children would be more apt to eat these new vegetables at school when the same ones start appearing at home.”
  • Prepare press releases about your district’s plans to celebrate NSLW, as well as any other special promotions, fun activities, new innovations or awards and recognition. Send these to area newspapers and other relevant media outlets, including community blogs and websites.
  • Tout your nutrition and school meals expertise to your local television stations, offering your availability as a spokesperson. Stations may have human interest segments as part of their news programming or locally produced talk shows. These are great opportunities to highlight topics that are relevant to your school nutrition program. Pitch some suggestions, such as how many school offerings are healthier versions of commercial fare or the role of your operation in district-wide wellness initiatives, such as recess before lunch or breakfast in the classroom.
  • Attend and speak up at school board meetings, especially if they are broadcast on television over a local public access channel.

Other directors offer creative ideas to consider. For example, in Evanston Township (Ill.) High School District 202, the crops grown in the school’s garden aren’t only served in the school cafeteria, reports Emily Conti, assistant director of nutrition services. “About 15-20% of the produce from our garden is sold at a farmer’s market, and we’re always sold out!” she exclaims.

Also enthusiastic about publicizing her district’s accomplishments is Linette Dodson, SNS, school nutrition director for Carrollton City (Ga.) Schools. When sharing suggestions for NSLW, Dodson was inspired by her own district’s plans for a late winter/early spring celebration in recognition of Carrollton City’s HUSSC Gold designation for all four of its schools. “We are asking our governor to come help us. We also plan to have representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state department and local dignitaries like the mayor, police chief and area physicians who have supported our programs,” she describes. In addition, HUSSC achievements—as well as Fuel Up to Play 60 promotions—have been promoted during Friday night football games, during the halftime show.

Routinely, Dodson invites special guests to help serve lunch in the cafeteria. This activity has been so popular that guest servers from years past have contacted her about coming back!

In addition to creating in-person promotions to tout the benefits of your program, remember that you also can take advantage of social media outlets to spread your good news and to keep your community continually updated.