The “Healthy Child and Earth” Committee at our School

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If you’ve been following along on Facebook you may know that I recently helped start a “Healthy Child and Earth” committee at my daughters’ elementary school. Some readers have expressed interest in understanding how the committee works and also what initiatives we are planning to tackle, which is what I want to share with you today.

First of all, like most people, I am good at complaining when something isn’t exactly going my way. But I know that complaining isn’t going to get me anywhere unless I actually try to do something about it. For every parent that has written in and told us their school/daycare serves the junkiest snacks or the worst lunches, the first thing I usually ask is if they could possibly band together with other like-minded parents to do something about it. Change has to start somewhere.

Two Years in the Making

As we all know though, change doesn’t happen overnight. I’ve actually had my eye on making some changes at our school for 2 years now (since my oldest started kindergarten). But I had never before been part of a PTA/O, much less did I know how all the committees worked, so I kind of sat tight and purposely just observed for a while. And what I observed, cafeteria food aside, was the constant use of junk food for student rewards and classroom activities. Then, the following year (last year), another mom and I attempted to form a committee together, and we also tried to get in front of the teachers to talk about some of our ideas…but to no avail. Needless to say we didn’t get very far despite our efforts.

Then this year we finally started getting some traction. Over the summer this other mom and I invited all the interested parents we could think of to have a little pow wow at my house. During this brainstorming session we realized that half the group was part of the school’s already established “Go Green” committee, so one mom had the brilliant idea to just expand that committee’s initiatives to cover the nutrition aspect as well. Bingo! That was the idea we needed to really get things off the ground.

Our New “Healthy Child and Earth” Committee

So as a result of combining the two committees together, the “Healthy Child and Earth” committee was born. And as it turns out…just expanding an already existing committee was a whole lot easier than getting approval to start a brand new one (not to mention we now had enough interested parents to back it up). Together our new group came up with a list of the top initiatives we’d like to tackle this school year and then, after our principal approved most of our ideas, a few of us met and each volunteered to help with the different responsibilities.

Below is the list of our top 2012 – 13 initiatives, as well as a progress update, from just the “healthy” side of our committee (along with attachments if applicable!). Also, stay tuned because our team assistant, Jill, plans to share some of the great things that are going on at her kids’ elementary school along with how she is utilizing the helpful resources available on the Food Day site in an upcoming blog post.

Our Committee Initiatives (from the “Healthy Child” side only)

  • Provide awareness and education school-wide
  • Reduce junk food in the classroom
  • Offer healthier food options at the monthly “Terrific Kids Breakfast”
  • Add non-fast food options for our school fundraiser “Spirit Nights” (like bowling, Earth Fare café, or roller skating)
  • Plan a “Healthy Child and Earth” week-long themed event in April (aligned with Earth Day)
  • Research possible grant opportunities
  • Think of ideas and criteria to reward healthy classes
  • Poll teachers/staff/PTO for additional ideas and opportunities (pending approval…we also wanted to survey parents, but that was not approved at this time)
  • What we’ve accomplished so far:
    • Set up a table at our school Meet and Greet (a.k.a. Open House) in August where we handed out healthy snack lists and recruited a few new parents for our committee [Download: Healthy Snack List]
    • Presented our Non-Food Reward List, Healthy Snack List, and Nut-Free Healthy Snack List at both the school-wide room mom meeting and the teachers’ staff meeting (yay!) [Downloads: Non-Food Reward List, Healthy Snack List, and Nut-Free Healthy Snack List]
    • Submitted helpful tips to be included in the email newsletter that goes out to parents every week [Download: First 8 tips (list includes both green and healthy tips)]

PLEASE share your healthy school ideas and initiatives in the comments!

 

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61 comments to The “Healthy Child and Earth” Committee at our School

  • That is awesome! I’d love to implement some of these changes at our school.

    Our school gives chocolate or white milk as a choice at snack time- I wish they would provide only white but I’ve never even suggested it.

    On thing that makes it hard is the many, many ideas about the word “healthy”. To me, a healthy snack would be something minimally processed, like a fruit or veggie or something. To some, healthy might mean low fat or sugar free, even if its full of artificial colors and nasty chemicals. So asking a parent to bring a healthy snack isn’t automatically going to get the help you’re looking for.

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Robin. Thanks for your thoughts…that’s a great point about there being differences in what everyone considers healthy. Jill

  • Valerie Smith

    I’m a pediatrician and mom of 3 who works with several schools promoting healthy food choices and physical activity. I’ll save my whole story for another place but thought many of your readers might be interested in a few resources available.

    First, any school district that participates in the federal school meal program is required to have a district wellness council or committee (they are called a variety of things in different states). Most of these committees are required to have parent members and help form district plans and policies related to nutrition, physical education, staff wellness, etc. If you want to get involved and don’t know where to start PLEASE ask your principal if your district has a committee and volunteer to participate. It is a great way to get involved, make your concerns known, share your knowledge, find like-minded parents and school staff, and help make changes.

    One place where I have found a lot of valuable resources for schools is letsgo.org. They are based out of Maine but their resources are available for reproduction anywhere. They focus on increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables, decreasing recreational screen time, increasing physical activity, and decreasing consumption of sugar sweetened beverages. They have toolkits for schools that you can download that include suggestions for policy change, educational materials for kids and parents, and tools for promoting healthy choices.

    Also, there is a program called Fuel Up to Play 60 that is a collaboration of the national dairy council and the NFL that provides ideas and financial support to schools working to improve children’s health. Sometimes principals and school administrators are hesitant to make changes because they are concerned about the cost so if you can help them fund the changes they are much more receptive!

    Lisa, thanks for your list, I have shared it with two school districts here in East Texas. Everyone is right, this is an uphill battle but it’s doable, and it’s important.

  • Very inspirational Lisa! I’m so impressed.

  • Karen

    This is a great post. Thank you for sharing your efforts. I look forward to reading how it progresses. I also appreciate the comments above from Valerie Smith. Keep up the good work here at 100 Days.

  • Randi

    Hi Lisa,
    Good for you, i’m sure it’s been a difficult road.I started a similiar program at my kids preschool 2 years ago and it has been slow to take off. I will say though, that people love to socialize, so if you can find a way to make your april celebration fun for all that should entice families. We have a kid-centric race and everyone raves about it. Now if I can get people to participate more through out the year that would be awesome. I’m excited to hear your tips, suggestions and accomplishments!

  • Barbara Legg

    HI Lisa – I just came across your website and really like it! I no longer have young kids – both of mine are college age, but I just recently found out that our elementary school district has identified an obesity crisis throughout the whole district! (over 35 elementary schools!) Since we still live in the same community where my kids went to elementary school, I felt a need to help out. I’m now organizing FUN Fitness walks in our community and getting sponsors (fitness centers, healthy food companies -like mine, and medical groups) to sponsor the event and help with the costs. Our first FUN walk will be a “Walk with the Witches”. We’ll have a different theme every month and introduce “healthy” choices to ALL participants! This is one way to get our community moving!

  • Diedre

    Hi Lisa. First of all I would like to say your blog has changed my life! Once I found you through Jamie Olivers Blog/website I have been using your recipes, your money budget and all your ideas. I have also been referring your site to all my friends and ecouraging them to visit. I am a mom of 2 toddlers 2.5yrs and under. I feed them real food and make all their lunches for preschool. The director of the preschool was really impressed with my lunches and asked if I would do a seminar/presentation to the parents on healthy snacks and lunches. The preschool provides no meals and it is up to the parents to bring all meals/snacks. So, I said YES, of course. I will be using a lot of your recipes printed out for the parents and making samples. I will be referencing your website and encouraging them all to come read for themselves. I have found my passion and want to thank you. I am hoping I can make a difference and change even if it is to one parent.
    Thank you so much for your efforts and desire.

  • I love all these ideas! I’m due with my first in March and I’m sure I’ll be the mom in her school implementing this stuff as much as possible. Unless, of course, we decide to homeschool.

  • Lissy

    Hi, Lisa, your website has also changed my life. I am a Guatemalan and I have been talking to my friends and family about your website. Thank you, you are impacting the world.

  • Ellen

    Thank you for joining this at your school! I used to work at a school as a wellness coordinator. It was my job to recruit parents for a similar committee. It was extremely difficult to find dedicated parents, so thank you for joining! I am sure your school appreciates it.

  • Jodi Baughn

    After just receiving an email stating that the snacks that will be served at my son’s Fall party are going to be oreos, donut holes, and M&M’s, I am feeling compelled to take action (my family has been on a “real food” diet for alittle over a year). My son is currently in the first grade and my daughter will start school next year, so what better time to get involved and possibly start something at their school that will not only benefit their generation but ideally generations to come!

  • Thanks for this list and resources! I am looking into getting involved at my daughter’s school and this will be helpful. She just started kindergarten and it’s such a passion of mine to teach kids healthy habits. I’m also on the state core team for Action for Healthy Kids in Iowa. The national AFHK site is a great resouce for information, too. Have you worked with them at all?

  • [...] is something we’ve never done before at our school, and it supports the initiatives for our new Healthy Child and Earth Committee. When we first started planning out the assembly we honestly were not sure where to start – I [...]

  • This is absolutely incredible! Prior to having children, I was an elementary school teacher and know too well about the types of food used throughout the year. I am now a stay-at-home mom who recently started my own “Happy Harmonized Health” blog to try and help others create better lifestyle habits. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE your ideas and am very inspired to do the same at my daughter’s school now that she is in kindergarten. Thank you for sharing your wonderful ideas/suggestions. It is very much appreciated!

  • Kerry

    I would love to see a follow up post to this one, see how this has worked out after a year or two.

  • Kerry

    Any suggestions on where to start making changes if you don’t have a kid in school yet? Mine will be there in 2 years and I am appalled at the amount of junk food I see in classrooms right now (I am doing observations in elementary as part of my degree requirements). I would love to start making changes now, as opposed to waiting until he is in school, which will coincide with me graduating and getting a job as an elementary teacher.

  • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hello Kerry. Finding an ally in the PTO/PTA and assessing whether school nutrition, parent education on nutrition, lunch packing and healthy snacking, school gardening, etc. are on their radar. Knowing this will give you an indication of what your starting point should be. Food Day: http://www.foodday.org/ has an excellent curriculum and resources that can be customized to different age groups. Also, not sure if you saw Lisa’s recent post on our school assembly: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2013/04/19/how-to-talk-kids-about-real-food/. Best of luck getting started. ~Amy

  • Right now it appears like WordPress is the top blogging
    platform out there right now. (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

  • Shannon Nault

    Check out http://www.spiritmonkey.com! It was started by a PTA mom in San Antonio as a non-food reward system that has blossomed into a fun, customizable, collectible to remember their school years by.

  • Jennifer

    I LOVE the part above about complaining. All too often I would hear other parents complain, yet they never spoke up when needed and they wouldn’t get involved. As a parent of kids with food allergies I was excited to see you included the nut free list. When my kids were still in school (homeschooled now) I implemented a lot of things regarding removing the abundance of foods brought into the classroom, not only because my kids had food allergies, but because they just don’t need all the junk food rewards and celebrations. Keep up the great work!

  • Brenda Sale

    The Fuel up and Play 60 (mentioned above) has Grant dollars avail for fruit and vegetable consumption and activities. Local County extension office often will collaborate on these grants. You can have another partner in making these changes and help get a program started. Website to find the nearest extension office in your state. Ask them about Fuel up and play 60 or about partnering in a school nutrition program. http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/

  • Beth

    Some things that your children’s school/teachers/parents could look into joining in the area is the Charlotte School Garden Network (https://www.facebook.com/groups/601059189905104/) and the Green Teacher Network (http://catawbariverdistrict.org/ultimateschoolyardgarden/greenteacher.html).

  • Heather

    Hi There!

    Any suggestions on how I can get something started at my son’s school? What would be the very first step? In other words, do you have any ideas on how I could contact or recruit interested parents at his school? Do I make a flyer to hand out with permission from the principal? I would love to start a committee and start making big changes! Thank you for the inspiration!

    -Heather

    • Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Heather. I would start with the PTO/PTA and see how they go about forming committees. They will also have a direct line to both school administration and parents. ~Amy

  • Jess Brookshire

    I think this whole idea is FANTASTIC! I follow this blog daily, and love the posts and ideas I get from them! That being said, I’m really curious about the “school-wide room mom meeting.” Why is it just a “mom” meeting instead of a “parent” meeting? Are dads not able to participate?

  • Nicole

    I am working with our school to do something like this, thanks! Is there a way Lisa can share more information so others don’t have to “reinvent the wheel”? The weekly tips are great but only a week or so is posted here. Also the initiatives for 2013-14 would be so helpful. Thanks!

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