This year, 2109, National School Lunch Week starts on Sunday, October 13th,
or the school week from Monday 14th to Friday 18th.

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National School Lunch Week takes place on the second Sunday in October, or
during the second full week in October.

Whether eating at the school cafeteria or bringing your own own lunch,  let’s get involved and provide healthier food options that young students want to eat.

No youth should go to school hungry or feeling sick, weak, and unhappy. Mealtime is one of the most important opportunities in the day to get started right, and plan a day for success. It starts by eating smart.

The History of the National School Lunch Week & Program

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According to the National Education Association (NEA)…

“Created in 1962 by President John F. Kennedy, National School Lunch Week celebrates the benefits of the National School Lunch Program (the largest federal child nutrition program).

In turn, the “National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a federally assisted meal program that provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day. The program was established under the National School Lunch Act, signed by President Harry Truman in 1946.” 

Many children live in families that struggle to put enough food on the table. For many of these children, a school meal is the only nutritious source of food they can count on. Invest in our future and take a stake in building a healthy and productive society in which all Americans benefit. Support and promote nutritious school meals for our children.

Set Goals This Week

Set yourself and your school on the challenge. Get smart and start planning for success by setting goals for better food quality, participation in meal programs, physical activity opportunities, and nutrition education. These are all good ideas that make young students healthy and active.

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End Hunger — According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2018,

  • 37.2 million people lived in food-insecure households.
  • 9.5 million adults lived in households with very low food security.
  • 6.0 million children lived in food-insecure households in which children, along with adults, were food insecure.
  • 540,000 children (0.7 percent of the Nation’s children) lived in households in which one or more child experienced very low food security.

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End Obesity — According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Childhood obesity is a serious problem in the United States putting children and adolescents at risk for poor health. Obesity prevalence among children and adolescents is still too high. For children and adolescents aged 2-19 years:

  • The prevalence of obesity was 18.5% and affected about 13.7 million children and adolescents.
  • Obesity prevalence was 13.9% among 2- to 5-year-olds, 18.4% among 6- to 11-year-olds, and 20.6% among 12- to 19-year-olds. Childhood obesity is also more common among certain populations.
  • Hispanics (25.8%) and non-Hispanic blacks (22.0%) had higher obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic whites (14.1%).
  • Non-Hispanic Asians (11.0%) had lower obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics.
  • Non-Hispanic Asians (11.0%) had lower obesity prevalence than non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanics.

The Hunger and Obesity Paradox

Hunger and obesity are not parallel or opposing problems. In today’s world, they exist side-by-side in our families, schools, and neighborhoods. It’s an epidemic that impacts the same households, and even the same person. Believe it or not, statistics and research are showing that in today’s America, the hungriest people are not sickly skinny, but excessively fat.

But, how could this be?

This is the very nature of food insecurity, because someone may well be getting enough to eat in terms of calories, but on the other side of the situation, the quality, variety and desirability of the food is severely lacking. Food insecurity is malnutrition, which is typically a result of poverty, poor education, and lack of quality options.

Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán

Many low-income families live in “food deserts” or wastelands of sorts, whereas the neighborhoods have a scarcity of healthy options. It is also less likely that poor, food-insecure people would take the risk in choosing more expensive and perishable foods that they believe could potentially go to waste.

Blighted, and impoverished neighborhoods tend to lack full-service, affordably priced supermarkets; whereas, many residents rely more on the shelf-stable, processed foods, and not on perishable, seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Some families live in a poorer neighborhood with fewer supermarkets, or they struggle with commuting across the city and region just to find work, take the children to school, and later return home. This forces many people to rely on unhealthy, convenient, and cheap food.

Get the Resources, Promote and Build

No matter the money or resources, get started, think smart, and find ways to get going where we need to be. Students, families, and friends can all work together, and we can find stakeholders who have shown support and care about the goals we’ve chosen, thereby raising the standard and participation.

Start by getting more of the fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains, and less of the saturated fat, trans fats, and sodium that we all should avoid.

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  • Choose Healthy School Lunches. Create and support plans that develop healthful eating patterns and prevent diet-related illness. Make sure that all youth have access to healthy, inviting meal programs, including vegetarian options, and other needs and desires.
  • Include Diverse School Lunch Options. Help develop menu options that invite healthy eating, enjoyment, and participation. Design meals that prevent diet-related illness, and which consider cultural and lifestyle choices, including vegetarian options, allergies, intolerances, etc. 
  • Advance Healthy Lives & Healthy Paths. Starting with K-3 education, move step by step through the grades with the appropriate and basic nutrition, physical activity, and lively spirit.
  • Dig into School Gardens as Outdoor Classrooms. These are opportunities for students to get fresh air, apply physical activity, appreciate the benefits of organic nutrition, and explore biological and environmental sciences, cultural studies, and more. 
  • Explore Taste and Nutrition. Teach the basics about food, compare options, and understand the nutrition benefits of various foods.
    Give lessons on how to make better choices, and plan healthy and exciting meals.


Photo by Jonas Mohamadi

October is also National Farm to School Month. Every year, this ritual enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers by changing food purchasing and education practices at schools and early care and education settings.

The celebration observes the connection between schools and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, improving student nutrition, providing agriculture, health, and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers. See the Farm to School website.

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