National School Lunch Week

Stepping into many school cafeterias last week offered a fun trip to another era! Across the country, many school nutrition professionals embraced the School Nutrition Association’s “Peace, Love and School Lunch” theme for National School Lunch Week (NSLW), donning bell bottoms, bright-colored shirts and flower power!

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Decorating Plates to Celebrate Healthy Meals

Each year during National School Lunch Week (NSLW), nutrition staff at Spring Independent School District (ISD) in Texas looks for ways to engage students and get them excited about healthy school lunches.

Located just outside of Houston, more than 95% of the district’s 33,500 students participate in the lunch program daily. School nutrition staff is committed to making sure supply chain challenges or staffing shortages have minimal effect on the meals they are serving and they continue to find ways to keep hungry student customers well nourished.

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Peace, Love and School Lunch

School cafeterias nationwide are celebrating “Peace, Love and School Lunch” during National School Lunch Week, October 10-14.  A big change from those groovy days decades ago, school menus in 2022 are full of trendy entrees, farm to table produce and lots of variety for students.

Schuylerville Central School District, NY

Many school nutrition programs are reaching into their community to ensure school meals are representative of the cultures and demographics of their students. The growth in schools locally sourcing foods and the increase in farm-to-school programs also help bring a greater variety and more seasonal regional favorites to student lunch trays.

In New York, many school lunch programs choose a certain day to highlight New York-grown foods each week. In upstate New York, the Schuylerville Central School District purchases at least 30% of foods for lunches from within the state, which qualifies the district for additional state funding for its farm-to-school program.  

Loudoun County Public Schools, VA

Studies show that school meal programs play an important role in supporting obesity prevention, and promoting overall student health and academic achievement by improving children’s diets and combating hunger.

Parents of finicky eaters understand that sometimes just getting children to try new things can be challenging. Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia has what it calls “Taste it Thursday.”  At the elementary schools, sample sizes of sweet peppers from a local farm were recently put out for students to try.

Putnam County Schools, FL

Putnam County Schools in Florida offers students the chance to pick their favorite chicken wing flavors on “Wing Wednesday.” At Interlachen High School, students are offered plain, spicy, barbecue and sweet and sour flavors to choose from.

Hale County Child Nutrition, AL

Hale County Child Nutrition Program in Alabama offers students selections from an Asian Bar, regularly serving healthy versions of popular entrees such as General Tso’s or Teriyaki Chicken. The schools offer made-from-scratch fried rice, Asian noodles, steamed broccoli, egg rolls and even a fortune cookie!

Every day, nearly 30 million children eat a healthy school lunch, providing them with the nourishment they need to succeed in the classroom. To receive federal reimbursements, school meals are required to meet nutrition standards, offering a balance of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low or fat-free milk.

Austin ISD, TX

Like in restaurants, spicy foods appeal to many students in school too. In Texas, Austin ISD Food Service says spicy chicken sandwiches are one of the most popular items served at the high school.

Greenville County Schools, SC

Greenville County Schools in South Carolina offers a salad bar every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as well as a wide variety of fresh and steamed vegetables for lunch daily at every school. The district says students are more likely to consume fresh fruits and vegetables when they have multiple options available.

During National School Lunch Week, many schools will celebrate with special menus, decorated cafeterias and engaging nutrition education programs. For more information, check the local school nutrition program web site or visit https://schoolnutrition.org/event/national-school-lunch-week-nslw/.

Students create healthy recipes for Culinary Arts Fair

School nutrition professionals in one rural West Virginia district wanted to do more to educate students about nutrition, recognizing that engaging with students could help the effort to lower obesity rates and improve health. Wyoming County School District‘s Director of Child Nutrition and General Wellness Programs Rhonda Thomas created a student culinary arts fair to encourage a friendly competition for students to create healthy recipes.

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Taking Farm-to-School Food on the Road

To get farm-to-school and locally sourced foods to more students, Buffalo Public Schools (NY) invested in a food truck, which went on the road in October of 2020.

“We only serve New York-made beef, hotdogs and hamburgers on the food truck. Any entree served comes from local farms, such as locally grown eggs, New York grown potatoes and hydroponic lettuce,” said Bridget O’Brien Wood, Food Service Director for Buffalo Public Schools.  The menu is dependent on the current growing season.

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