You’re already doing a lot to make healthy eating happen at home. But you might feel helpless when it comes to your kids’ school. Children spend 35-plus-hours at school every week, eating up to two meals (and maybe even a snack) there. That makes it a natural setting for learning about and experiencing food. Good food. The kind that doesn’t come in a plastic wrapper. Here are 12 ways you can take action in your child’s school to make that happen:
1. Volunteer to bring a fruit tray or fruit salad to the next class party or school event. The simple “fruit rainbow” I brought to my son’s preschool class was a huge hit and was quickly gobbled up.
2. Join a PTA committee that plans events and fundraisers and lobby for healthier options. For example, could a cookie dough fundraiser be swapped for a Florida citrus sale? Could the PTA adopt a “water only” drink policy for all school events? Could students get slices of watermelon instead of snow cones on the last day of school?
3. Ask your child’s teacher about taking a field trip to tour a local farm, farmer’s market, or natural foods market. Some farms and markets have special programming just for schools–and your children’s teachers may have health-related topics they need to cover as part of their curriculum (that’s a win-win!). Last year, my son’s kindergarten teachers arranged a class visit to a farm to learn about maple sugaring, then they all returned in the spring to see how bees make honey.
4. Celebrate your child’s birthday by donating a book to the classroom that teaches a lesson about food (two of my favorites are Yoko and Bread & Jam for Frances). Babble.com has a list of 10 books for a Healthy Food Attitude.
5. See if your child’s teacher would be open to having a farmer or chef visit the classroom and talk about how food is grown or prepared.
6. Get to know your school’s foodservice team. Thank them for their work. Ask questions. Find out how decisions are made. Be polite and gracious.
7. Volunteer to talk to your child’s class about food and nutrition. Super Healthy Kids has simple lesson plans for all grade levels.
8. Join your school’s wellness committee (or start one) and work on programming that gets students excited about healthy habits (read: “School Wellness Programs That Rock“).
9. Find out if your child’s school takes part in Farm to School, a national movement to source more foods locally and to provide educational activities to students that emphasize food, farming, and nutrition. The USDA provides a toolkit to “grow your own” program.
10. If the school allows outside food, organize parents to do tastings. Have kids sample different kinds of apples and make a bar graph of the class favorites. Bring your blender and whip up green smoothies with spinach and fruit. Let kids mash avocadoes into guacamole they scoop up with chips. Get advice from School Bites in this post, Tips for Starting a Preschool Cooking Class.
11. Does your child get a snack every day in class or at a school after-care program? If you’re not happy with the quality of the snack, talk to the teacher or staff about possibilities. Here’s a huge list of snack ideas from CSPI.
12. If your school has a garden, pitch in to help. If they don’t, could they start with a raised bed or containers? Whole Foods’ Whole Kids Foundation has lots of resources for making a case for a school garden, designing a garden, recruiting volunteers, and developing activities around it.
I wrote this post as part of a coordinated blogging event for Food Day. Held every October 24th, Food Day is designed to inspire Americans to change their diets for the better and to improve food policies. Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), it’s a day to resolve to make changes to your own diet and to take action to solve food-related problems in our communities at the local, state, and national level.
Visit the following blogs written by other authors participating in Food Day’s first-ever Coordinated Blogging Event:
- Celebrate Food Day! by Kath, RD posted on Kath Eats Real Food
- When it Comes to Our Kids’ Diets, Let’s Get Real by Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RDN posted on Food & Nutrition
- Celebrating Food Day 2014 by Barbara posted on Morning Berries
- Food Day 2014 blog post by Kenan Hill posted on Kitchen 1204
- Healthy Food for School Food Day blog post by Sally posted on Real Mom Nutrition
- Food Day 2014 – join the fun in Mundelein and Chicago!!! by Lindsey Shifley posted on to the mullies…
- Happy Food Day (Week) from the Land of Chocolate and Fries by Janina Grabs posted on Food (Policy) For Thought
- Why Organic Matters blog post by Andy Bellatti, MS RD posted on Eating Rules
- The True Cost of Your Food by Nancy Chen posted on Spoon University
- Teach Kids to Cook, Eat and Lead Healthier Lives by Katherine Baker posted on Spoon University
- Millennials May Be “Foodies” But Are They Food Illiterate? by Zoe Holland posted on Spoon University
- Arugula, Walnut, and Bleu Cheese Stuffed Portobellos and Food Day by Justin Fox Burks posted on The Chubby Vegetarian
- Food Day blog post posted on Sankofa Speaks Blog
- It’s Food Day blog post posted by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
- The Future of Heritage Breeding by Eliza MacLean posted on Barnraiser
- 7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Food Company by Lisa Curtis posted on Barnraiser
- 5 Reasons to Savor Specialty Coffee This Food Day by Mark Inman posted on Barnraiser
- The Future of School Gardens by Benjamin Eichorn posted on Barnraiser
- Food Day 2014: The Future of Food, collection edited by Barnraiser
- Waste Not, Want Not: How Ordinary Home Cooks Can Help Prevent World Hunger; Autumn’s Harvest and Food Day; Waste Not, Want Not Quick Health Saver Tip; Waste Not, Want Not: Quick Dessert Idea; Waste Not, Want Not: Reflections; Waste Not, Want Not Recipe: Ginger Cardamom Green Beans; Waste Not, Want Not: 5 Tricks for Cooking Not Tossing Bitter Foods by Mary Collette Rogers posted on Everyday Good Eating
- Scantily Clad Photos and Burgers by Denise the Dietitian posted on A Dietitian’s Diary: Finding a Healthy Balance