snacktivism

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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Coaches are role models, and they set the tone for the season. They also play a critical role in getting junk food and sugary drinks off the sidelines of youth sports. When I’ve taken my Snacktivism mission to the coaches of my children’s teams, I’ve been grateful that they’ve all been on board (read: “THAT Mom: The Sequel“).

I was thrilled to learn that a new training module was created for soccer coaches, to help them encourage healthy habits for practices and games (and discourage sports drinks and post-game cupcakes!). Called Coaching Healthy Habits, the training is a partnership between US Youth Soccer, the largest youth sports organization in the country, and Healthy Kids Out of School, an initiative of ChildObesity180 at Tufts University Friedman School of Nutrition.

Coaching Healthy Habits is a simple 12-minute slideshow with three main messages:

  • Drink Right (hydrate with water instead of sugary beverages)
  • Snack Smart (snack on fruits and vegetables)
  • Move More (increase physical activity during practice)

Here’s a handout that summarizes their messages (click HERE to save or print if you’d like to pass it along to coaches or parents):

Free Resources for Soccer Coaches

For example, here’s the message about “Drinking Right”:

Myth: Players need the electrolytes in sports drinks to stay hydrated.

Fact: To stay hydrated, replenishing electrolytes isn’t necessary if players are eating a healthy diet and drinking water. Sticking to water also helps players avoid the added sugar in sports drinks.

Remind players to bring 1-2 full water bottles for trainings and matches. Consider a “water-only sideline” to encourage your team to drink water.

Let parents and players know that doctors recommend water, not sports drinks. Consider opportunities when you could share this message with your team.

Coaching Healthy Habits has already been tested in Massachusetts and will be required for all new licensed soccer coaches in the state, as well as in New Hampshire and Maine. But any coach or league can access the training!

If you’d like to view the training module or pass it along to your coach or local sports league director, go here to the Healthy Kids Hub (go to “Take a Training” → “Soccer Coaches” → “Get Started” ). You can also find it here through US Youth Soccer.

Healthy Kids Out of School has other resources for parents and coaches, including this fact sheet on why sports drinks aren’t necessary for most youth sports (click HERE to save or print if you’d like to pass it along to coaches or parents):

Time out on Sports drinksFor more resources, including sample emails to parents and coaches and a printable list of “20 Healthy Team Snacks For Kids“, get my free Sports Snacktivism Handbook.

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20 Healthy Team Snacks for Kids

September 9, 2014

Leaves are falling. Soccer balls are flying. Naturally, my thoughts turn to healthy team snacks. Since I first voiced my frustration over junky soccer snacks a few years ago (read Soccer Mom Soapbox), I’ve advocated for fruit-and-water team snacks. I’ve also made the case for simply eliminating the team snack altogether (read The End of Soccer […]

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Want To Improve Camp Food? Now Is The Time To Act!

August 27, 2014

You may be in back-to-school mode, but if you were unhappy with the snacks or meals your child received at summer camp this year, now is the time to speak up. Why now? Because camps are sending out end-of-summer evaluations and surveys–and there’s plenty of time to look at parent feedback and make improvements for next summer. This summer, […]

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Changing Camp Snacks For The Better

July 7, 2014

Snacktivism doesn’t stop when the school year ends. While some kids attend just a week or two of camp throughout the summer, others spend many weeks–or even most of the summer–at camp. It shouldn’t be a place where healthy food takes a permanent vacation. Two years ago, I had my own moment of camp Snacktivism, […]

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Soccer Snacks on Steroids: Is THIS Why It Started?

April 30, 2014

Remember when soccer snacks were simple orange slices on the sidelines? Someone’s mom brought a Tupperware container full of them for halftime. You sucked out the juice or peeled the fruit from the rind while getting a pep talk from your coach, then ran back onto the field. Flash forward a few decades and orange […]

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Soccer Mom On A Mission…Watch It!

March 13, 2014

Two years ago, I tromped around the soccer fields in my community, snapping photos of the snacks I was seeing. I set the photos to music and turned them into a video slideshow called “Soccer Mom On A Mission”, with the hopes of raising awareness and mobilizing a new wave of Snacktivists to create change. After […]

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All About Snacktivism: My Interview in StayBasic Magazine

February 23, 2014

A few years ago, I got fed up with the Kool-Aid and cupcakes my son was getting after soccer games and vowed to make a change. I began talking to coaches and parents about providing fruit for post-game snacks instead–or even nixing snacks altogether (read: “What If Soccer Snacks Just Went Away?“). One day, a […]

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In Praise of Food Activism, Big & Small

February 18, 2014

Have you noticed that regular people are doing some very big stuff? Vani Hari (aka Food Babe) gets the attention of major food companies by exposing some of the questionable ingredients in their products–and demanding they do better. In response to her widely-circulated blog posts, Chik-fil-A is removing artificial dyes from its sauces and dressings […]

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A Call for Candy-Free Valentines

February 4, 2014

Remember Valentine’s Day as a kid? If your school was anything like mine, you found an old shoebox, cut a slot in the top, and decorated it with paper doilies and puffy heart stickers. You stationed it on your desk at school and made the rounds in the classroom, giggling and dropping valentines in your […]

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