gardening

FoodDay2014_poster_11x17_new2small-page-001You’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.

RainbowFruit

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.

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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.

DSC_112810. 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:

Food Day

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My Summer Bucket List: The Food

by Sally on June 5, 2013

This summer, I want to…

1. Make many, many batches of homemade ice cream in my turquoise Cuisinart ICE-21.

2. Learn how to dry or freeze the extra herbs from my garden instead of letting them go to waste.

3. Go blueberry picking with my kids. Eat so many berries I feel sick. Repeat.

4. Drink a cold beer with lemon on the beach.

5. Find multiple excuses to make these homemade Fudgesicles.

6.   Make homemade lemonade with my kids.

7. Pick peaches at the orchard and then (re)learn how to can them.

8. Buy Swiss chard at the farmer’s market and finally figure out how to cook it, maybe in a meal like this.

9. Keep chunks of watermelon in my freezer so I can have fresh watermelon juice whenever I want it.

10.  Eat outside more than inside, with people I love.

What’s on YOUR summer bucket list?

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Thanks, Mom & Dad

August 19, 2011

It’s a good thing my parents don’t read my blog. If they did, they’d have to endure all the references to my childhood diet of Steak-umms, cherry Kool-Aid, the canned corned beef (and of course, my mom would have to relive the Chocolate Milk Incident). But after spending several days with them at my childhood […]

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Friday Five: Simple Steps to Healthier Living

June 24, 2011

Just a few blocks away from me in my city neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio, urban homesteader and food educator Rachel Tayse Baillieul lives seasonally and sustainably. She raises backyard chickens, presses apples into cider, and makes homemade butter. I don’t do any of those things, and probably never will. But I still find a lot […]

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