Here are three things to do this year to help make your kid's school healthier.
Don't like the sugary cereals at school breakfast or the cookie dough fundraisers? Are there changes you'd like to see, like less sugar in the classroom or more events that get kids moving? As a dietitian, parent, and longtime member of our school's wellness committee, I've talked to A LOT of parents who are unhappy about these kinds of issues. But very few of them actually do anything about it. Some don't want to rock the boat or be seen as complainers. Some think they don't have the time or the ability to make any real change. Others don't want to do anything but complain (we all know those types).
But here's the thing: Teachers and administrators hear plenty of griping, but people take complaints a lot more seriously when you have possible solutions—and more importantly, have the willingness to act on them. So this year, make a resolution to jump in and get your hands dirty, and be part of the solution.
Here are three things to do this school year:
1. Attend PTA meetings. Then you can...
Suggest an alternative to the typical junk food fundraisers. Check out this guide to healthy (and profitable) fundraisers from Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Work with other like-minded parents to brainstorm solutions to what bothers you. I started this simple Fruit Ninjas program after seeing how much fruit was going uneaten in the cafeteria.
2. Join the school's wellness committee (or start one!). Then you can...
Help create a wellness policy for the school district (or revise an existing one). Check out this model wellness policy from Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Research that you can use as a template.
Start a program to get students excited about eating healthy foods and moving more. Read about this simple Wellness Week we held at my children's school.
3. Have good communication with your child's teacher. Then you can...
Ask (politely!) about how food is used, if at all, in the classroom. Get this free Guide to Getting Junk Food Out Of Your Child's Classroom from The Lunch Tray.
Suggest celebrating birthdays without food–or simply go the non-food route for your own child and see if it catches on. Read my post 10 Food-Free Ways to Celebrate School Birthdays for creative ideas that kids and parents will love.
Work with the teacher to create a healthier classroom. School Bites created this free Healthy Classrooms Initiative that includes resources and ideas you can use in your own school.
Here are some smaller steps to take as well:
- Have a conversation with the principal or cafeteria manager about school breakfast and lunch and get informed.
- Volunteer to bring a healthy snack to the class party.
- Sign up to donate healthy food to school events.
Anyone can complain--but real change begins when parents speak up and pitch in. Good luck!
Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian, educator, and mom of two who blogs at Real Mom Nutrition. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. She collaborated with Cooking Light on Dinnertime Survival Guide, a cookbook for busy families. In her spare time, she loads and unloads the dishwasher. Then loads it again.