SNA is pleased to announce the themes for #NSLW23 (October 9-13, 2023) and #NSBW24 (March 4-8, 2024).

As a school nutrition professional, you flex your creative muscles all year long. Twice a year, however, there’s an opportunity to really have some fun: National School Lunch Week (NSLW) and National School Breakfast Week (NSBW!)

Getting an early start on planning  is essential for a truly successful campaign that achieves your planned goals. It takes coordination with frontline foodservice staff, teachers, local community partners and other stakeholders. Planning early also helps ensure that you’ve secured the resources, such as funding, supplies and activities, to execute your creative campaign.

The themes for next school year’s events have been carefully selected to reflect the ever-changing interests of students, aiming to engage them with entertaining activities, plenty of merriment and, of course, enticing meals. These themes provide a framework for school staff to come up with an innovative campaign that aligns with the overall message of the benefits of school meals.

Read on to learn more about next school year’s themes, along with ideas on how to celebrate. We hope you get excited about the #NSLW23 and #NSBW24 themes…because we sure are!

2023 National School Lunch Week: Level Up with School Lunch

Facts are facts: Kids these days love video games, and #NSLW23’s theme takes full advantage of that. While it might seem at first glance that video games run contradictory to the goal of getting students more active, that’s not necessarily the case now. Think about how many active video games are available, from Pokémon Go, which emphasizes a ton of walking, to the upbeat, motion-heavy Just Dance.

It’s easy to make a link between nutritious foods and videos games, too! In so many video games, when a character is low on energy or health, what do they do? They power up by finding food items (Remember, it’s the mushrooms that make Mario grow big and strong!)

While you can focus on a generic video game aesthetic (take cues from the retro, pixelated official #NSLW23 artwork), you might find more success with popular games and characters. Ech age group from K-12 has games that resonate with them. Instead of choosing your favorite games, do a poll that asks the students (perhaps as they come through the serving line), “What’s your favorite game?” With the knowledge of what your specific students love, you can lean into those games with your decoration and celebration ideas. It can help the students feel involved in the week and make it more relatable to your school.

Word of caution: Before you get too into using popular characters in your celebrations, remember that they are trademarked and/or copyrighted. Always make sure you’re using officially licensed merchandise to stay in the clear!

As always, we encourage you and your co-workers to go all in and to dress up (or, as the video game community might say, cosplay!) Serve lunch dressed up as a popular character, and encourage students to join in by wearing their video game-themed clothing. It could make for fun photo opportunities if a group can dress up as characters from the same game!

The SNA Shop is your cheat code for #NSLW23 success! Starting early this summer, you’ll be able to purchase easy decorations such as posters and banners, as well as cups, water bottles, stickers and more. SNA’s NSLW website also has free printable resources, such as activity and coloring sheets.

To add more players (i.e. more school lunch participants!) to your lunchroom, get creative with food names and menu terms! Milk and fruit and vegetable juices can become “health potions” or “mana potions,” grab-and-go items can become “XP boosters” (XP meaning experience points), main and side dishes can be “main quests” and “side quests.” Simply changing the name of the item already is creating a more playful atmosphere for this gaming theme!

Video games can be more than just entertainment; it is also a door into a computer science career. Partner with the library to highlight video game-themed books and with computers and software or with teachers for lesson plans on coding. This can create a more holistic approach to the theme and engage students in learning about the video game industry beyond just playing games.

This is not “game over,” but only the beginning of your journey to Leveling Up with School Lunch!

2024 National School Breakfast Week: Surf’s Up with School Breakfast

Say “Aloha” to this year’s National School Breakfast Week theme! “Surf’s Up with School Breakfast” is here to bring some tropical warmth to your spring months, particularly as students look forward to Spring Break. The theme is designed to bring the excitement and energy of surfing culture to your cafeteria while keeping the focus on healthy and delicious breakfast options.

NSBW, at its core, is about promoting nutritious breakfast menu items in an engaging way for students. With this beach theme, you can seamlessly integrate a number of unique and tropical breakfast options into your daily offerings. Consider even taking a cue from traditional Hawaiian foods! (And don’t miss the September/October 2023 issue of SN magazine, which will include a Food Focus on Hawaiian cuisine!) Plan a breakfast beach party, complete with a special menu that could include breakfast sandwiches made on Hawaiian rolls, tropical fruit salads, yogurt parfaits, coconut or banana pancakes, pineapple smoothies, banana bread, a K-12-compliant version of Loco Moco (a classic Hawaiian dish consisting of white rice, topped with a hamburger, an egg and brown gravy) or tropical fruit-studded oatmeal.

If you don’t have the time in the morning to highlight some of these special breakfast options or participation is lower than you’d like, themed breakfast-for-lunch options are another convenient way to emphasize participation in school breakfast each morning. Island time means that breakfast foods aren’t meant to only be enjoyed in the morning!

Decorations and celebration ideas can come stress-free, as you might already have everything you need! One easy-breezy idea for you and your co-workers is to come dressed up in your best (appropriate!) beach attire—it’s time to break out your summer wardrobe. Accessorize warm-weather clothing with Hawaiian leis, snorkels/goggles, fun sunglasses or fresh tropical flowers.

The cafeteria can also be decorated with colorful pool floaties, beach balls, umbrellas, sand buckets or anything you might bring with you to the beach. Tropical fruits such as coconuts and pineapple could also be used as decoration, then later made into yummy treats! Carve surfboards out of cardboard, which can be decorated by students. Get creative with other organized crafts, such as a simple DIY lei craft with cut paper flowers, straws and string. Don’t forget about the SNA shop for official #NSBW24 merchandise, including T-shirts, aprons, stickers, posters, balloons and more, which will be available in Fall 2023.

Of course, we’ll want you to show us your shaka on social media by using the hashtags #NSBW24 and #surfsupwithschoolbreakfast. To make the shaka, curl your three middle fingers while extending your thumb and pinkie finger. In surfing culture, it means “right on,” “thank you” or “take it easy.” Don’t wipe out—Surf’s Up with School Lunch is “shore” to help students to hang loose and bring tropical vibes to your cafeteria!

#NSLW23 and #NSBW24 resources are made possible by Kellogg’s Away from Home

Related Articles