An inviting space encourages people to gather and connect with each other and elevates the meal service. It’s a great way to introduce lunch goers with summer reading, library programs, and essential services and resources. With minimal cost and effort libraries can create lunch spaces that say “Welcome to the library. Welcome to lunch. We’re glad you’re here!”

First Impressions

  • Have friendly servers on hand and a designated “greeter.”
  • Cover tables with paper and put out crayons.
  • Purchase brightly colored, easily washable table covers.
  • Have volunteers or lunch attendees create reusable table centerpieces. Some ideas include succulents in jars or cans, squash or gourds on the tables, cups of crayons, assorted standing books, recycled book sculptures.
  • Stand and stack quick reads – picture books, graphic novels and magazines – on the lunch tables or around the perimeter of the lunch space.
  • Decorate the lunch area according to the annual summer reading theme (enlist teen advisory board members or other volunteers to take this on).
  • Use a large roll of paper to cover the walls so that lunch goers can create a mural over the course of the summer.
  • Cover the lunch area walls with artwork created by families or paper discs that include some favorite book titles.
  • Play music in the background.
  • If the meal sponsor permits it, consider having a “share table” for unopened food or milk to help minimize food waste and enable a child to have a second helping
  • In addition to the juice and milk being served, use a large clear beverage dispenser and offer iced water with or without sliced fruit (and provide paper cups).
  • Offer food resources to adults when possible. Work with community groups, local food banks, and seek out other resources in order to provide meals or snacks (a granola bar or piece of fruit) to the caregivers. Though not always an option, the meal time is inevitably enhanced when everyone can eat together.
  • Create a document listing sources of free food for adults and have it available in the lunch area.
  • Have a small vacuum available for quick clean up after the meal service has ended.

Create Opportunities and Space for Interaction, Creativity, and Learning

  • Include art and crafts within the lunch space.
  • Put out building toys so kids can stay and play.
  • Include a play kitchen in the lunch area.
  • Hold weekly raffles for books or other types of giveaways.
  • Make the excitement of summer reading and summer reading signups a part of your meal program. Create a reading area, show a Bookflix, offer storytelling, sign up families for summer reading in the lunch area.
  • Invite guest speakers to speak about early literacy and healthy living and nutrition.
  • Invite city and county services to stop by (Fire Department, Department of Water & Power, Health Department, etc.).
  • Promote and publicize upcoming not-to-be-missed library programs. Put out flyers or project information onto the lunch area wall.
  • Plan programming for before, during, and after the meal service.

Give Gentle Reminders of the Rules

Agencies participating in the USDA Summer Food Service Program must adhere to the prescribed rules to preserve the integrity of the program as well as to protect the health and safety of the children eating the meals.

Sometimes it can be challenging for library staff and volunteers to frequently remind families of the rules of the program, such as the need to consume meals on-site or educating caregivers that this program is designed to serve children and teens ages 18 and under only. Some libraries have found that putting a flyer with the basic rules that families need to know in a clear, acrylic “table-topper” on each table can help lessen the amount of time spent (or discomfort) reminding participants of the rules.

This rules flyer template can be customized. PLEASE NOTE: Libraries should always follow the rules provided by the meal provider. When using this template, check with the meal provider to make sure to the flyer reflects the rules they want to convey.