Highlights and Resources of the 2018 Smarter Lunchrooms Symposium



This year’s Smarter Lunchrooms Symposium was awesome! More than 100 participants and guest presenters gathered at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY to learn about current Smarter Lunchrooms research and became certified as Smarter Lunchrooms Technical Assistance Providers (TAPs). The program featured a lively blend of theory and practice, with many interactive panels and activities to enable cooperative learning and hands-on application. The audience included first timers and experienced practitioners – some attending for the fifth time or more! Highlights of the event were shared in a Healthy Food Choices in Schools Community of Practice webinar, Highlights of the 2018 Smarter Lunchrooms Symposium.

A central focus this year was the accessibility and dissemination of information. The Smarter Lunchrooms Movement (SLM) National Office has worked to make our program easy to use for the widest audience possible. Our current goal is to share as much symposium content as possible online. Announcements about these posts and other summer content will be made through the Lunchroom Buzz platforms and @SmartLunchrooms on Twitter, so follow us!

This year’s three-day program included a Research and Resources Showcase and a TAP training.

On Day One, five researchers shared current work in applying Smarter Lunchrooms strategies in K-12 schools in America and internationally. Three studies examined the effectiveness of promoting target foods through catchy jingles, stickers, and pre-ordering by students. Another initiative involved students in planning and enacting Smarter Lunchrooms changes in their lunchroom. Lastly,a survey of food service leaders from across the country revealed which characteristics predicted a willingness to engage with Smarter Lunchrooms initiatives. The presentations were followed by a poster session and a discussion panel regarding a number of topics: future research ideas, questions for school nutrition stakeholders, best practices for data collection, and how Smarter Lunchrooms techniques can be explored in the next years. These topics will be explored in then upcoming CoP webinar, Smarter Lunchrooms Research Showcase: Research from the 2018 Smarter Lunchrooms Symposium. Furthermore, the research presentations were recorded and subtitles were added. The videos, slides, and posters can now be viewed online. If you have conducted Smarter Lunchrooms research and would like to showcase your research, please contact us. If you are interested in a research partnership with us, we also encourage you to contact us.

On the afternoon of Day One, we celebrated the many state partners who have developed resources to enhance their Smarter Lunchrooms initiatives. Our Free Resources Fair was an expo of free resources to use or be inspired by. We collected over 60 examples of signage, look books, social media pages, videos, professional development and nutrition education lesson plans, waste reduction resources, early childhood education resources in English and Spanish, and much more! We also included new and rebranded materials from the SLM National Office, such as the Flavor Station. Our participants were so excited to use and share the resources! These are now posted our online resource gallery. Resources are still being accepted on an ongoing basis. If you have a great free resource to share, please contact us.

Days Two and Three of the symposium were focused on the TAP training. Colleagues from five states joined the SLM National Office staff to present the TAP training modules. Participants first learned how to collaborate with school-based stakeholders to use Smarter Lunchrooms strategies to nudge students to select, eat, and enjoy healthy food choices in schools.  The audience enjoyed seeing the different presentation styles and gained confidence that they, too, could use Smarter Lunchrooms materials to share the program with schools. The guest presenters also shared their expertise in special topics, including using Smarter Lunchrooms to boost participation the the school breakfast program, using operational and social media technology to support work in lunchrooms, tips for successful grant writing, long-term communication plans for working with schools, and Smarter Mealtimes for early childhood education settings. These exciting presentations, with subtitles and tools, will be posted in the coming months on SmarterLunchrooms.com and will be announced through our blog and social media channels.

To learn more about the presenters, click here.

Other important announcements included a review of our updated Creating Smarter Lunchrooms 2-hour online course, which is accredited by the School Nutrition Association (SNA), updates to the TAP-only resource library (coming soon), and the growing number of state-based Smarter Lunchrooms collaborative work groups.

Lastly, this year’s event provided a wonderful opportunity for participants to interact with other dedicated, dynamic, inspiring professionals from around the country. We were so excited to see friendships and professional connections form between colleagues from different states and fields. Some attendees are partnering with us to develop future content! This will help broaden the range of topics and stakeholder perspectives represented on SmarterLunchrooms.org and our webinars through the Community of Practice. We welcome this enthusiastic engagement and look forward to serving our partners, colleagues, and community throughout the coming year!


Erin Sharp, MS, MAT, Curriculum Designer, Smarter Lunchrooms Movement National Office