How to Plan a Popcorn Bar at your School

If you found this post, you must be getting ready to plan an appreciation popcorn bar at your school. YOU ARE AMAZING! Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to make the teachers and staff feel loved. 

In addition to this post, I created a free downloadable "Appreciation Snack Bar: Planning Worksheets and Checklist" that walks you through the entire planning process; from asking the essential questions before you begin, to packaging up some snacks for the night custodians, who always miss the fun appreciation events. I'll share with you my tips and tricks, my exact SignUp Genius wording, and make this process as streamlined as possible.  

Did you know that some people don't like popcorn? Who knew?! These instructions are for planning a popcorn bar, but can easily be modified for a snack bar. I did something similar with colorful beach buckets the last month of school. Everyone brought in bags of chips and snack foods, and I just dumped them in. Voila!

How to plan a popcorn bar for teacher appreciation week with free planning guide and checklists.

Choosing a Theme

So many fun themes, and so little time! Our printables shop has an assortment of popcorn/snack bar printables, but the sky is the limit! What will you choose? Things to keep in mind:

  • Time of year. Are seasonal decorations readily available?
  • Are decorations and supplies readily available? I started designing printables because there was nothing in the Dr. Seuss theme is was planning. Don't do that to yourself. LOL! 


Coordinating Volunteers

It's true. The success of any school event depends on the number of and willingness of your fellow parent volunteers. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to contribute a snack.


  • Give plenty of lead time. If you know you are providing monthly snacks, and have the dates scheduled out for the entire year, provide a list of dates as soon as they are confirmed.
  • Send an email about your event one month in advance. If you are anything like me, your calendar fills up fast! You want to get the popcorn bar on your volunteers' radar with plenty of notice.
  • Use SignUp Genius for your sign up. SignUp Genius makes it easy to create an event, track who has signed up to bring an item, and quickly see which items you may need to supplement. You can contact everyone on the sign up with the click of a button, AND if you are planning more than one snack bar, you can duplicate the sign up! It is a huge time saver. As an added bonus, SignUp Genius will automatically send everyone a reminder two days before the event. Did I mention it was free?!
  • Remind, remind, remind. One week before the event, send a follow-up email to any volunteers who haven't signed up to bring anything yet. I can't tell you how many times I have read an email on my phone, made a mental note to respond later, then promptly forgot. Reminders are very much appreciated.

The Sign Up Form 

You've already read the many reasons why I love SignUp Genius. Now it's time to dive into sign up specifics. The number of staff members will dictate quantities, so I can't help you there, but I can provide other guidance.


  • The event description should include the location, day, and time of drop off.
  • How would you like the items delivered? (Ziplock bags?)
  • Would you prefer homemade popcorn varieties instead of store-bought?
  • Include a link to my Simply Pop! Pinterest board. It is filled with great popcorn recipes. Again, you want to make this as easy as possible for your volunteers.
  • Make a note if there are any food allergies. (No peanuts, for example.)
  • Include your name and contact information in case anyone has questions.


Popcorn and snack bars are the easiest of all appreciation events. For this event, error on the side of more. If you have extra, the staff will enjoy their special snacks the next day.

  • Include savory and sweet popcorn flavors 
  • For a staff of 60, I offer at least six varieties of popcorn, but usually eight.
  • Be very specific regarding quantity and variety. Ask for 1/2 savory and 1/2 sweet, and ask for at least ONE GALLON of each. I have received anywhere from 4 cups to 3 gallons in the past.


Other items you may consider asking for: tablecloths, paper cups, napkins, flowers, volunteers to set up, volunteers to clean up, etc. Again, be specific regarding quantity, size, and color.

Depending on the number of staff members (and how many varieties you provide) Your popcorn bar may last more than one day. Be sure to buy extra bowls or cups. People will come back more than once, and you don’t want to run out.


Set Up and Clean Up 

Setting up is my favorite part of any event. I love making the tables look just right. The person setting up and receiving the food may be you, or multiple volunteers.


If you are the person setting up, you should have the tablecloth, cups, napkins, decorations, and (of course) printables with you.

  • If another volunteer is setting up, tell them where the decorations are located. (Under the food table is my go-to spot.)
  • Be sure to ask the school secretary or office manager if there is a specific spot you should set up. Some schools are just thrilled you are providing lunch; others are very particular about how they would like things done. I've had kids at both.
  • If you have a large school and a significant number of people dropping food off, recruit a second person to receive the food and check it off the sign up sheet. You or another volunteer can find a place for the item on the pretty table.
  • PRO TIP:These are my favorite glass containers and scoops for popcorn and snack bars. I purchased them myself in 2012 and have used them for countless appreciation events and at home. They are an investment, but well worth it in my opinion. Other serving container options include: large salad bowls, beach buckets, lined baskets... you get the idea. I like glass containers because the lids keep the popcorn fresh.
  • Put some popcorn into snack bags for the night custodian(s) and tuck them safely in their staff mailbox with a note. They always miss the fun appreciation events! I got to be good friends with them over the years. They are, after all, the ones that vacuum up the crumbly aftermath.


This section was tricky for me to write. I don't want to scare you off (amazing appreciation planner that you are), but I want you to be prepared. Here's the thing, you are probably going to be the one cleaning up. It's not that parents are unwilling; it's the timing. Often parents are at work when clean up needs to happen, or they are at home with a toddler, and we all know toddlers create more work when you try to bring them along to do anything. Popcorn bars are definitely the easiest to clean up of all appreciation events.

  • Cover the top of any leftover popcorn with Press n' Seal. So easy!
  • Alternatively, you can put the leftovers into the gallon bags and bring the containers home. So easy!


  • If your child is at a school with required volunteer hours, offer double the hours for anyone who volunteers for clean up duty.
  • Request that parents bring the popcorn in gallon-sized bags. It makes pouring the popcorn into serving containers easy, keeps any extras fresh, clean-up is a breeze, and there is nothing for them to pick up after school.

Popcorn Bar Ideas

You can read about the decorations and other specifics of themed popcorn bars I have coordinated below:

"Hop on Pop"corn Bar (Dr. Seuss)
POP! Popcorn Bar (Superhero)
Supersonic Snacks (Space)
Snack Assembly Station (LEGO)
Snack Stampede (Western)

It's Your Turn!

Are you feeling prepared and ready to plan a popcorn or snack bar for the superstars at your school?! I created Planning Worksheets and Checklist to walk you through the process. It has additional helpful information and lists not included in this post. You can do it!