What Is NSLW?

Learning is tough work—and kids need fuel if they’re going to learn! That’s why a healthy midday meal is crucial to the growing children who go to school. Since 1962, when President John F. Kennedy created National School Lunch Week (NSLW), this annual observance has promoted the importance of a healthy school lunch in a child’s life and the impact it has both in and out of the classroom.

The Importance of School Lunch

Even though National School Lunch Week was declared in 1962, the National School Lunch Program goes back even further, back to 1946. Created to provide nutritious meals to children from low-income families who might not otherwise have access to a daily meal, NSLP ensures the health and well-being of all public school students, boosts academic performance by giving students the fuel they need to succeed, and closes the opportunity gap for children across the country. Today, the National School Lunch Program serves nearly 30 million children every school day. Not only does it reduce childhood hunger, but it also supports American agriculture.

What NSLW Aims to Do

Despite the critical role NSLP plays in the health and success of American youth, many people still don’t understand its importance—including some families who could benefit from it! During the weeklong celebration, held annually during the second full week of October, SNA members and their students will celebrate with special menus, events, activities, and much more, all with the goal of…

  • Increasing student participation.
  • Spreading the message to parents that you’re serving healthy, delicious lunch at school.
  • Earning media coverage from local papers, TV stations and bloggers.
  • Connecting with teachers and administrators at your school or in your district to spread the word that school meals are healthy and delicious.

How You Can Celebrate

NSLW isn’t just important—it’s also fun! If your school wants to join in, keep an eye out for this year’s theme, which is usually announced in the months leading up to NSLW. You can incorporate the theme as much or as little as you’d like into your celebration.

Need ideas? Here are some fun ways to make NSLW a success at your school:

  • Deck out your cafeteria with NSLW posters and other artwork portraying nutritious lunch foods. This is a great opportunity to make use of the annual theme in the way you illustrate and depict your lunchtime favorites. If your school is open to it, you can have students create a mural or permanent artwork for year-round display.
  • Get in touch with local personalities like business owners, elected officials, athletes, news anchors, musicians or someone else your students will recognize, and invite them to stop by your cafeteria at lunchtime to eat with the students. If you can’t find a local celebrity, you can always have the school mascot or ask a volunteer to dress up as a movie or TV character.
  • Invite teachers, administrators or even your school principal to stand in as guest servers for lunch one day.
  • Offer a tasting of new menu items and talk to students about the nutritious benefits they get from certain foods. Tell them they get vitamins and minerals from all the colorful fruits and vegetables, or explain to them the way whole-grains provide carbs for sustained energy during recess or sports practice.

Remember that NSLW is as much about informing your community about the importance of school lunch as it is about informing the students and parents. Reach out to local media outlets to see if they’re interested in talking to your district’s foodservice workers and doing a piece about the impact school lunches have.

Don’t forget: Just because NSLW takes place on a designated week every fall, you can shift your celebration to a different week if that’s more convenient. Maybe you have a teacher in-service day or student testing that week. Celebrate the week before, after or any other time of year!

Ad for STEPS Wellness Program, links to STEPS page