WHEN IT COMES TO GETTING ACTIVE, it’s vital that kids bring along the right gear. For dance class, don’t forget tap shoes and a leotard! When heading to the football field, a helmet and safety pads are a must. Even when just playing outside in the neighborhood or on the playground, kids benefit from wearing supportive sneakers and a good coating of sunblock. But there’s one piece of “gear” that children in your community might forget about, and it’s every bit as important as the proper shoes, clothes and safety equipment—a healthy diet. Although National School Lunch Week (NSLW) is months away, you don’t want to procrastinate and be faced with starting from scratch during the busy back-to-school season. Now is the time to get a jumpstart on your planning for this annual celebration of school meals. This year’s NSLW will be observed October 13-17, 2014, and its theme, “Get in the Game With School Lunch,” is a great way to underscore the important link between nutrition and physical activity in developing healthy habits for a lifetime. A nutritious school lunch can boost students’ energy and performance on the field, court or the playground, but NSLW offers plenty of perks for your program, too. In a 2013 survey of SNA members, 73% said that recognizing NSLW helped their operation achieve its goals, while more than 80% noted that it helped increase participation. With such a consistent track record of success for your operation—plus the potential for positive media coverage, the opportunity to raise community awareness of the value of school meals and an occasion to provide creative outlets for your staff in dreaming up exciting campaign approaches—can you afford to sit on the sidelines this year? After all, when you simply combine a great attitude, an imaginative spirit and the terrific resources provided by SNA with support from Chobani, your NSLW celebration is sure to be a slam dunk! Calling All Sports Fans Start your NSLW 2014 prep by gathering your staff for a brainstorming session. To get in the right mindset, first and foremost consider your MVPs: the students in your school or district. Have certain previous NSLW themes failed to resonate with the age level of students served in your cafeteria? Never fear—the very nature of this year’s theme makes it one that is easy to tailor to elementary, middle and high schools simply by making a few targeted adjustments in your approach. For example, elementary and middle school students will respond to many of the easier-to-under stand concepts inherent in the theme. Use colorful posters and icons (like SNA’s official art above) activity sheets and games that draw connections between nutrition and activity: Lowfat milk and yogurt will build strong bones for lifting heavy objects; whole-grain breads can help kids run faster on the basketball court; and beans, poultry, fish and other proteins boost muscle power for any and all favorite activities, whether it’s dance, baseball or bike riding. You could even use the federal government’s MyPlate guidance (www.choosemyplate.gov) to help explain how each food group on the lunch tray improves their game. High school students, on the other hand, don’t want to feel like they’re being treated like kids. For them, you’ll want to focus on more sophisticated approaches to delivering the messages about how nutrition relates to physical activity and performance. Skip the cartoons and skits in favor of calling in experts, such as sports nutritionists, who can help the teens connect the dots. Of course, there’s no rule that you have to follow the national theme for NSLW to the letter! Each year, operators find success in taking the gist of the national theme and putting their own spin on it. For example, rather than a strict connection with physical activity, maybe you will opt to take a more metaphorical definition of “get into the game,” broadening your focus to show how healthy lifestyles allow us to succeed at the game of life, including academics, relationships and happiness. The key to a winning week is finding the approach that works best for you, your staff and your students. The Home-Field Advantage Teens, tweens and the little ones all respond best to campaigns that specifically target their interests. Therefore, rather than take a completely generic approach to the NSLW theme, try to connect your efforts to sports or activities that are particularly popular in your area. For example, NSLW 2014 falls right in the middle of the playoffs for Major League Baseball, with the World Series starting on October 22. Do most kids in the area have an allegiance to a particular team contending for the crown? October also is the heart of football season, both for the pros and your high school team. Consider capitalizing on one or both of America’s favorite pastimes for your NSLW 2014 activities. Maybe there’s a new game in town. Has roller derby swept the school as the latest hip activity? Maybe there’s a newly opened swimming pool or ice rink or rock climbing wall that’s attracted a lot of attention in recent months or years. Figure out a creative way to incorporate such local favorites into NSLW—though you shouldn’t feel the need to serve school lunch while wearing roller skates, as that’s a broken leg just waiting to happen! Instead, it might be as simple as incorporating team or player names on menus, scoring free tickets to local activities for participation prizes, hosting a sports trivia contest during the lunch period or even inviting a player, mascot or staff member into the school. From there, turn your school cafeteria into an NSLW home base! Feel free to take that advice literally, decorating the cafeteria like a baseball diamond, complete with informative posters at each “base.” Other options include turning the cafeteria into a football field, basketball court or golf green, if those sports are more popular in your area. Pipe in sports- or activity-themed music during lunch time, taking a cue from what you might hear at the stadium—“Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Sweet Caroline” or “We Will Rock You,” to name a few. You also could choose songs with a “winning” theme, such as “We Are the Champions” by Queen or “All Star” by Smash Mouth. Looking for a bit of assistance with your decorations? Involve talented staff and students to help gain their investment and engagement in this promotion. Also, don’t forget, SNA offers decorations such as balloons, banners, posters and more to spruce up your cafeteria for purchase through its Emporium (http://emporium.schoolnutrition.org). A Team Effort Just like it takes the effort of an entire team to win a game, celebrating NSLW to its greatest potential can require the participation of many. Although successful festivities may require the cooperation and approval of supervisors and administrators (such as school principals or district directors), if you are a site manager or employee, know that your ideas and initiative are most welcome, since you are the key to the success of any cafeteria event in your school. Step up and out of your comfort zone to suggest NSLW activities, décor or other ideas. Introducing NSLW to your school for the first time? Pitch it to your boss using not only this preview article, but also the success stories from other readers who have celebrated NSLW in previous years. (Check out “School Lunch: An American Staple,” pages 34-44 for inspiration from NSLW 2013.) But don’t get overwhelmed; even small activities can take you far in promoting school meals in your area. Remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Enlist the help and support not just of cafeteria coworkers, but from others in the school and general community. This year’s theme is one that teachers certainly can rally around, particularly those in physical education, health, consumer sciences and nutrition. Alert them early in the new school year that NSLW is right around the corner, giving them time to possibly incorporate messaging into their lesson plans. Think outside your school, as well. Of course, you’ll want to invite parents to eat lunch during NSLW so they can see all the good work you and your peers are doing, but also reach out to local dignitaries. Options include, but are not limited to, the superintendent, board of education members, the mayor and town council members, as well as the governor and state or national legislators. It all depends on where you’re located and how much effort you’re willing to put in. SNA’s NSLW 2014 Toolkit (available at www.schoolnutrition.org/nslw) includes a tip sheet to help guide the process of inviting legislators to your NSLW celebration. One key takeaway: You’ll need to come up with compelling reasons for your representative to attend, so be sure to draft your request in a way that clearly benefits your prospective guest. For example, visiting the cafeteria is a great opportunity for your representative to see a federal school meals program in action, foster goodwill in the community and garner positive media coverage—all points you can hit on when extending the invitation. To really ramp up the excitement factor, reach out to a local sports team— it could be a professional, minor league, college/university or even community team—and ask if a player, coach, mascot or cheerleader is available to come speak to and take photos with your students. Invite the team’s nutritionist to accompany your special guest, as this professional can elaborate more on how a successful athlete benefits from healthy meals. For a twist on this idea, invite sports stars from your high school teams to visit with elementary and middle schoolers—to the young ones, these players can inspire awe. The high school students benefit, too, by learning more about how to share their newfound knowledge of nutrition and physical activity with their younger counterparts. With such a lineup of luminaries visiting your cafeteria, you’ll want to make sure that everyone in the community knows about your NSLW 2014 activities. That leads us to... Show Your Team Spirit! Stop the presses! It’s National School Lunch Week 2014! Local media outlets are always looking for fun and unique events and celebrations to cover. Research the name of the education reporter or city editor at the local paper, as well as at area television and radio stations, and invite them to visit the school and witness your festivities firsthand. Use SNA’s online template to craft a press release that includes all the details (including times, dates, place) and highlighting the special activities that are planned. This will give them all the information they need to prepare a visit. SNA’s NSLW Toolkit is a great source for additional tips on contacting the media—no need to feel intimidated in reaching out! Even if journalists can’t visit your school in person, you can collect photos, quotes and stats after the fact and pass these along, so they can do a wrap-up article on the celebration. (Don’t forget to send them to School Nutrition while you’re at it!) Whether traditional media sources choose to showcase your NSLW revelry, remember that you have direct channels to share it with the community: social media sites. Use Facebook and Twitter to announce events, menus and special guests beforehand. At the end of the day, share photos of exciting cafeteria activities—and your special school meals—via Instagram and Pinterest. [Editors’ Note: For more on mastering social media to share your celebration highlights, see the tips on page 52 of “Make the Grade With School Breakfast.”] Not exactly confident in your photographic skills? School Nutrition will have an upcoming article on getting amazing results from your smartphone— and a corresponding education session is planned for this year’s Annual National Conference in Boston. Look out for these resources to sharpen your skills, so you can be a more effective marketer during NSLW and beyond. Finally, show your own excitement about the “Get in the Game” theme while you’re serving and celebrating with your students. Encourage everyone on your cafeteria team to don professional or college team jerseys or dress in school colors. You even could encourage the school administration to declare one day of the week an official “Show Your Team Spirit for NSLW” Day, asking everyone in the student body, plus teachers and administrators, to dress in a favorite team’s gear. T-shirts and aprons with this year’s theme art also are available for sale in SNA’s Emporium. Pick up Your Gear Just like baseball players need bats, swimmers need goggles and kids everywhere need healthy lunches to be successful, you need the right gear to make NSLW 2014 a success, too. SNA’s member resource website is your one-stop shop for everything you need. Head to www.schoolnutrition.org/nslw, where you’ll find valuable resources designed to make planning and implementing NSLW an easy task. These downloadable tools, brought to you with support from Chobani, include: • a toolkit full of ideas and tips to make your NSLW celebration one to remember; • NSLW recipes that are kid-friendly and packed with protein to help your students perform at the top of their game; • the official NSLW art work and logo, which you can use on all your materials, menus, signs and newsletters; • a backpack brochure to send home with students featuring information for parents; • games and activities for younger students to get excited about NSLW; • PowerPoint presentations that you can use to showcase the importance of school lunch to administrators, parents, staff, teachers and students; • templates for press releases and official proclamations; and • web and Facebook tips and tools. When you visit this invaluable website, make time to enter a special sweepstakes! When you share your anticipated plans for NSLW 2014 activities, you’ll be entered to win free stickers to give away to youngsters who visit the cafeteria during NSLW. Next, pay a visit to http://emporiumschoolnutrition.org. Think of this as your sporting goods shop for NSLW—you can find official merchandise, including T-shirts, aprons, posters, balloons, buttons and more. Whether you want to outfit your staff in official NSLW gear or order fun trinkets for giveaways for the students, the Emporium has what you need. Game On! Once National School Lunch Week 2014 comes to an end, don’t find yourself playing Monday morning quarterback, wishing you had done more to capitalize on this perfect opportunity to promote and celebrate school meals. With just little creativity, collaborative effort from the staff and some assistance from SNA, you can hit NSLW 2014 right out of the park! No matter the size or scope of your celebration, School Nutrition wants to hear about it! Your report could be included in our annual recap issue, simply by submitting a short summary of your festivities and high-resolution pictures via e-mail to email@example.com or snail mail to NSLW Recap, School Nutrition, 120 Waterfront St., Suite 300, National Harbor, MD 20745. Don’t forget to include your name and title, the school(s)/district that celebrated and the city and state. Are you ready to go to the mat? Get ready to tee it up, because you’ve got the inside track! This 2014 NSLW preview was compiled and written by Kelsey Casselbury, School Nutrition’s associate editor. How Should YOU CELEBRATE NSLW 2014? If you’re not sure how much time, energy or support you have to invest in coordinating a National School Lunch Week celebration, don’t let your uncertainty prompt you to simply punt and ignore the opportunity for another year! Take the following quiz, choosing the answers that most closely describe your personal, school and/or district’s resources, and then match your responses with ideas for NSLW festivities that line up with what you’re able to handle. How did you celebrate last year’s National School Lunch Week? A. I really wanted to celebrate, but just ran out of time to put anything together. B. We put up posters, promoted it on the take-home menu and celebrated with a few themed meals. C. The district’s marketing department helped me invite regional politicians and the media, and we held a special event in the cafeteria each day. How familiar are you and your team with NSLW? A. I’m new to school nutrition, or much of my staff is new to the profession, and we’re unfamiliar with the promotion. B. I have a mix of veterans and newbies, so some training about this promotion opportunity is required. C. We’ve been celebrating for years! Never miss it! How many staffers are available to put together a promotion for NSLW? A. It’s just me! B. I have a small staff, but they’re excited about this year’s theme. C. We have multiple staff members willing to coordinate promotions throughout the district, as well as frequently getting support from teachers and school administrators. Is there any wiggle room in the budget to devote to NSLW festivities? A. Our budget is as tight as can be—we need to find ways to celebrate that don’t cost anything B. We’re not rolling in cash, but there are some funds designated for these sorts of marketing campaigns. C. We know that marketing is key to the bottom line, so we invest what’s needed for a great campaign—while still being cost-conscious. How tech-savvy are you and your staff when it comes to marketing? A. Our access to a computer is limited; no one on staff has or regularly uses a smartphone. B. We’re on Facebook, but don’t ask us how to use Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. C. Just call us Steve Jobs’ crew—it’s all about social media, smartphones and other tech tools around here. MATCH YOUR ANSWERS! I Had Mostly “A” Responses: Aim for First Base Time, money and/or technology skills are in short supply, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a memorable NSLW celebration! • Rather than spend time developing new recipes, give your current recipes new, sports-themed names. Options include Batter up Broccoli, Touchdown Tacos and Slam Dunk Sandwiches. • Write a short blurb about National School Lunch Week—its history, importance and this year’s theme, among other topics—to include in the district newsletter or on the school’s website or Facebook page. • Make liberal use of SNA resources, available for free at www.schoolnutrition.org/nslw, including backpack brochures and activity sheets to share with students, as well as high-resolution images for artwork to place on your take-home menus. I Had Mostly “B” Responses: Slide Into Second You’re ready to expand your NSLW festivities, well aware that there are still some limitations to going the distance. Take a moderate approach, incorporating the ideas from the “Mostly ‘A’ Responses” answers, while taking it a step further, as well. • Take advantage of your own or a colleague’s social media skills and get the community involved and engaged online. Announce on Facebook and Twitter that it’s National School Lunch Week, and ask followers to comment on their favorite school meals. Each day, post the celebratory meal you’ve served for lunch; take photos and upload them to Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. • Implement some type of school-wide contest, whether it’s focused on student-created artwork, essays or trivia. Topics could include the students’ favorite food before they exercise or how eating right makes them feel better when they play outside, or on nutrition and sports factoids. • Play sports-and activity-themed music in the cafeteria during lunch for your staff and students. Think “We Are the Champions” by Queen, “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, “All Star” by Smash Mouth, or “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” I Had Mostly “C” Responses: Hit a Home Run It’s your time to shine! When you’re ready to go all out to celebrate National School Lunch Week, the sky’s the limit. Take advantage of the ideas already identified, as well as those that follow so you go all out! • Partner with school coaches and/or physical education teachers to integrate school nutrition and physical fitness into their lesson plans or team practices. • Invite local sports celebrities, whether it’s minor league teams, college athletes or professional players to visit during meal periods—even high school students can be “celebrities” to elementary and middle schoolers. • Transform your school cafeteria into the sports arena of your choice, such as a baseball diamond, football field or basketball court. But We’re Not in School During NSLW! what Should We Do? For many schools across the country, National School Lunch Week often falls during a week-long school holiday, over a long Columbus Day weekend or during parent-teacher conferences. Each year, SNA receives requests to change the date of NSLW; however, the timing was determined years ago by an act of Congress and SNA does not have the discretion to alter the date. But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck! Just because you can’t celebrate October 13–17, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t celebrate at all. If it works better for your school to celebrate a week later—or even a month later—that’s when you should do it. Let it be a special occasion to highlight your school meals program. SNA resources, including the Toolkit, downloadable materials and activity ideas, all remain on the website, www.schoolnutrition.org/nslw, for many months after the official observance, as do items from the Emporium. SNA and School Nutrition will welcome submissions and reports of National School Lunch Week activities that are celebrated at any time next year.
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