The “Healthy Child and Earth” Committee at our School

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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63 thoughts on “The “Healthy Child and Earth” Committee at our School”

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  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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?

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Barbara. Sounds like you have some wonderful ideas in your district. Best of luck to you and thanks for sharing. Jill

  10. 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!

  11. 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.

  12. 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 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.

  13. 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.

    1. 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

  14. Congratulations on your successes! My son’s kindergarten class had a girl who was allergic to everything under the sun and her mom had a meeting with us to share safety concerns as well as alternatives for school snacks/parties. It was so informative and we’ve since carried it forward to First grade. It may be easier for us since our school is tiny and we only have 2 classes in each grade to grade 5. But anywho….whoo-hoo for you and your children! One child. one class, one school at a time. :)

  15. I am beyond lucky to be in a school that embraces all of these ideas. We even have a huge organic garden that does seasonal harvest sales and garden based curriculum. Yes this is a PUBLIC school! :) Me and another lady are trying hard to embrace Georgia Organics Farm To School Program. I have learned that around here their isn’t any push back, but large implementation of programs like this takes a lot of volunteers and a lot of time. Everyone wants these great programs, but rarely do they want to give their time to make it happen.

    We are going to start small and this year spend a lot of time informing parents of what our great school is already doing, get our volunteer program super organized with goals and though out plans, checklists for events, etc. Once we get a solid volunteer foundation we want to branch out and mentor sister schools to help bring them along. We even have a green house on our school property and could actually grow enough fresh veggies to keep our salad bar stocked. So right now that too is a goal of ours. :)

  16. Well, I’m officially jealous. ;-) I am co-chairing Elizabeth Lanes GREEN Team and had very high hopes of doing exactly these things above but was quickly stopped and handed a CMS Environmental Guide to be our ONLY resouce for ideas of initiatives. “food is not apart of The GREEN Teams responsibilities”…

    1. Hi Amy,
      I would encourage you to reach out to your principal and/or PE teachers at Elizsbeth Lane. They have a school health team that is working to address these issues. You can “join the team” and support their efforts on our website at I’m sure they would love to have parent participation. The Healthy Schools Program is working with 15,000 schools across the country to create healthier school environments. Actually, we now have close to 80 CMS schools participating. I encourage everyone to join at no cost for lots of great resources on healthy snacks, celebrity chef recipes, physical activity breaks, success stories and lots of toolkits on making these kinds of changes happen in your school.

    2. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Amy. Did you guys ever look into establishing a health team? That’s what we did at out school and we didn’t run into the same obstacles. Jill

  17. This is a fantastic idea in theory, but how do you make sure the parents actually follow the new guidelines? My sons kindergarten class has snack each day, provided by a different parent each time. The teacher has very specifically instructed the parents to only send healthy snack. Each day, my son comes home talking about the cookies or snack mix with M&M’s that he had at snack time. Does no one listen to the teacher’s request?? (And kudos to the awesome mom who sent fruit and cheese kabobs one day! Some people listen!)

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Sarah. I would say the school will have to enforce it and not accept snacks that do not follow the guidelines. Jill

  18. Wow, great job!! My daughter is just now in kindergarten, but at her private school their snacks are actually healthy. So it’s a nice relief! I agree though – it takes action to make change – so way to go to be the inspiration!! Plus, for me, it helps seeing that you attempted it once…not much happened…and then you attempted it again and lots happened. Sometimes if it doesn’t start off with a bang then I give up.

  19. Kudos in all you’re doing. Another Mom and I also started a “Healthy Hornets” parent committee at our school. And yes many teachers and PTA members use candy and junk food for rewards. The elementary school’s cafe offers snacks, chips and ice cream for lunch. Come on!
    We did the following:
    1. Met with the Food manager who was great in helping improve the lunches. Snacks – still there.
    2. Built a SUGAR Display that shows how much added sugar is in the flavored milks and drinks in the cafe and provides education on daily allowances.
    3. Started a School Garden with fresh organic foods. Kids love this… involve parents and local community.
    4. Start a Healthy Tips column in the school paper and advise parents on what is being sold or offered on school campus and how to block sweets.
    5. Ask the PTO/PTA about their Wellness initiatives. Ours had one and ask to promote these wellness policies. Same for the school.
    6. Enlist county Wellness intiatives and local university Dietitian programs that may supply Dietitian interns at your school! They can help with programs and articles.
    7. Use display boards, games and educational materials at all school events.
    8. Keep it up, keep educating and keep plugging!

  20. I’m not sure this is the year to push too hard. Parents are in an uproar about the new changes. Even otherwise healthy eating parents are upset about the changes for political reasons. Maybe that’s not a reason not to try, but if you only have limited time and energy you might choose another year. I have a feeling that school administrators and cafeteria supervisors have heard enough complaints already to last all year.

  21. That’s so awesome, I love what you’re doing. I don’t have kids yet, but it’s something very dear to my heart to get the junk food out of schools, and get the good stuff in. Kids need all they can get to do their best at school, and the junk food is not helping! They need healthy, hearty fuel to keep their brains top notch!

  22. Kudos to you Lisa, I really do hope you gain traction this year with this “like pushing water uphill” cause. I wish I had been so in tuned as to how to get my little ones to eat well and been able to get the school on board. Mine are now in high school and they just groan when I make anything that is “good for you”; esp. snacks. When I questioned the teachers (and other, more “seasoned” parents) during those years, there were always a few who looked at me like I was crazy for asking why there had to be so much candy; as if I had nothing better to do than bug them about this trivial topic when they had real work to do teaching my kids (also, they always complained about how hard it was to keep everyone on task, but probably if they cut out the junk, it wouldn’t be such a battle!). When middle school came around, things changed for the worse. The administration and teachers don’t want your input, just money for all the programs/clubs that have become expendable. The kids get caught up in the pecking order of the “coolness” factor and bringing cute, natural foods to school is not at the top of that list. Now they are in high school and I have given up trying to convince the kids about eating for wellness. I just hope it will cycle around when they go off to college and have their minds opened to causes that become important to that age. Does anyone have older teenagers they have been able to have success with this matter? Would love to hear some advice on getting through to uncooperative kids.

  23. Last year our school received a USDA grant which allowed for a fresh fruit and vegetable snack everyday. It was great to see my son bring in the tray of snacks for his class one day and I know introduced a lot of new things to many children. Not exactly sure how the school received, but food for thought. Do love the “Healthy Child & Earth” committee name!!

  24. In Ontario we have had a healthy schools policy which started last school year. Teachers are not allowed to use any food as incentive. Any food days, like pizza or sub days have to meet certain regulations (like whole grain, low fat). The schools are each allowed a set number (I think it’s 4 or 5) of days when they can break the rules (ie Halloween, the students can have candy at the class party). We also always try to encourage the students to eat the ‘healthy’ part of their lunches first, instead of the treat. I think that making actual rules, with specific guidelines and regulations is the only way for schools to go because otherwise there will always be the parent, or class who doesn’t choose the healthy way and then students will fell left out. From what I can see the program is really helping students form better ideas about eating and their health.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Christy. Thanks for sharing what your school is doing – it is always helpful to get ideas from others! Jill

  25. I’m so grateful for this post! I just joined our PTO and am really saddened about how many sweets and junk they seem to be prepared to dole out to our kids. I’m cautiously optimistic that we can change things, am and so thrilled to see other ideas here. Thanks!

  26. Our principal just explained (ok, complained) at our PTSA meeting this week that the school district (which receives federal funding), is not allowed to use any type of food for prizes, incentives,or rewards any longer due to the new school food laws pushed thru by Michelle Obama. The school can only serve breakfast and lunch with the approved menu choices. They had been doing a student of the month breakfast providing coffee, juice and muffins before the school day to winners and parents during an award presentation but can no longer do that. PTSA can also no longer provide lunch to the top Box Top collection class either. We are a Middle school so thank goodness we’ve been done with those ridiculous birthday treats some families would provide, so not sure how the elementary schools are handling the parent uproar of no longer being able to do that. But for some reason, they are still able to sell “junk” at a la cart during lunch…hum, I think I need to place a call to our food service director today….

  27. Great job, Lisa! My daughter is in first grade and I have been working on cafe. changes that I mentioned to you in another comment — it’s awesome when we can make change! Also, great rewards handout! I did a post too on Rewards that WOn’t Fill Your Tummy! I’m also doing newsletter “Wellness Corner” blurbs in our newsletter, like you! I love the weekly suggestions you made and would love to use them in our school newsletter! These are my first two: 1) This year, thanks to the hard work of the school cook and dietitian, there are some exciting changes to our school menu! For one thing, pastas and breads will all be made of whole grains! So what? This means our kids will be getting more fiber, protein, minerals (calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, selenium), vitamins (B6, E, and K), and other healthy nutrients! Whole grains give us sustained energy, so our kids will power through their afternoons with ease! 2)Have your kids been enjoying the hummus at lunchtime in the cafeteria? This super addition to the menu is a great source of plant protein, fiber, healthy fat, and flavor! Here is a basic recipe so you can make hummus at home for your family! In a food processor, blend 1 can garbanzo beans (drained; reserve juice to add if mixture seems dry), ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, ¼ c tahini, ¼ c lemon juice, and ½ tsp garlic, until smooth. Garnish with paprika and some fresh parsley. Enjoy with fresh veggies or as a spread on whole wheat toast! Awesome that you have a whole committee to work with!! Have a great weekend!

  28. I would love to do something like this but maybe on a smaller scale at my little girls preschool!!! They have pizza days were the school provides lunch for the kids and their dessert was twinkies! I was so happy that my little girl didn’t go to school that day! They also provide snacks everyday and it is usually graham crackers and juice (both sweet). I think they do this because it is easy and they do not know better options. Thank you for sharing how you are changing the trend of junk food in schools!!!!

  29. Shallon: My daughter goes to a private school, and I’ve found the school and teachers extremely receptive to my input. So please don’t let that deter you! If anything, private-school parents should have *more* say because we’re paying directly to send our kids there. And the schools know that. As for being labeled “that mom,” I’ve found it’s all in how you approach the conversation.

    I actually developed a PDF handout to help parents talk to teachers and school officials about junk food in the classroom (which Lisa previously shared on the 100 Days FB page — thanks, Lisa!). You might find that helpful:

  30. I would like to be involved in a committee like this. I emailed our PTO to see if one already existed and I never received a response. I guess I will take that as a no. I wish I had the time/energy to start this committee on my own, but my schedule won’t allow this. I really admire all you do to keep your family and other families healthy.

  31. Thanks for sharing. It is really crazy, how much junk food is served in daycares and elementary schools. And even crazier, a daycare can accomplish a fully USDA-approved meal schedule by just serving crap – open a can of peaches and you have your serving of fruit. When I picked out daycare, I insisted on visiting the kitchen area too and was quite shocked. I ended up sending my daughter to a private hispanic family daycare, where they served mostly homemade rice & beans & meat – I loved it.

    IMHO, almost all the bad eating habits in the US can be traced back to poor cooking skills of the majority of the population. If you know how to cook, you automatically eat healthier, because you eat a larger variety of food and you barely use any highly processed foods (convenience foods). The same way, school cafeterias could tremendously improve by hiring qualified people. Of course, hiring qualified people might be more expensive, but it could save the country in the long run a lot of money.

  32. I want to know if anyone has talked to their kid’s (private) daycare/preschool teacher/director? I feel like I cannot say anything because I fear they’ll say something to the effect of “I chose to send my child there, and if I don’t like there food then I can choose a different place instead of changing them.” And of course I’ll then be labled as “one of those parents” which may affect my child. I can totally do it in the public school, but how do you do it in the private childcare?

  33. Thank you for sharing what you are doing!! I have not had the energy to get anything going at my children’s school, but this sure is even more motivation to get in touch with other mom’s about it and maybe sit in on a PTA meeting. You are wonderful and I absolutely downloaded the lists!!

  34. I have tried to bring up the topic of using less treats in the classroom at our PTA meetings but it is just all talk right now. The PTA is trying a little to cut down on the number of treats they give out. I am also trying to find a way to encourage moms to bring healthier snacks for birthdays. My son was given 2 King size candy bars last year in one day. One from the teacher and one from a mom as birthday treat. I was not happy! I am still in the talk about it stage and but want to move to action. Thanks for a jump start. I think a statistics sheet on the issues with kids like allergies, ADD, diabetes, autism, etc. would be nice too so people can see why we care so much. Facts speak louder than “crazy moms” some times.

  35. Ooo, let’s see if we can get this to go county-wide?! Do you want franchise opportunities? ;) I’ve been thinking a lot about this, but also wondering how to help kids from lower income families. Yesterday I saw a sweet, little girl in the cafeteria with a lunch tray and her lunchbox. Today I asked her why she did that, she said it was because she liked to pack up her extra lunch food to eat later. (She is a child who I know lives in a very dire economic situation.) It just made me think about how awesome it would be if we knew that kids were “packing” healthy food to take home when they are hungry instead of candy.

  36. These are wonderful ideas! I homeschool my daughter and while I don’t have to worry about other people feeding her things that are unhealthy, I do have to worry extra about teaching WHY she eats healthy. I love the ideas you gave as rewards and I think they are easy to convert into home-based rewards also! Keep up the great work!

  37. Wow, what a great idea. I was thinking of trying to start a Real Food club at my school, and since the Healthy Child and Earth committee has had such success I might try to start something of my own. I am always looking for ways to help change the food emvironment for the better, so this is a welcome idea. So far I have only sent e-mails to restaurants that have good real food options to thank them and let them know it is appreciated or to a few chain restaurants that do not have as many options to let them know (politely) that customers might appreciate a healthier option or two. A club would be a good way to get others involved. Thanks for the encouragement!