Before Taking On Junk Food at Your Kid’s School, READ THIS
|September 18, 2014||Posted by Stacy under Classroom parties, Improving school food, Junk food in school, Making change, School food, School lunch|
Fed up with all the junk food at your child’s school? Wondering why your efforts to teach healthy eating habits are being undermined? A few years ago, I was where you are now. Unable to just live with it, I found myself compelled to fight for change–or die trying! Since then, I’ve learned valuable lessons on how to be a successful advocate for a healthy school environment. So just in time for back-to-school–six tips to help you in your efforts:
As tempting as it may be to kvetch about the seemingly endless stream of cookies and cupcakes, complaining won’t change anything–and it could turn off other people. Of course, we all need to vent once in awhile. But try to keep it to a minimum and instead focus your energy on helping make positive change. (See Calling All Moms: Here’s How YOU Can Make a Difference in the Fight for a Healthier School.)
Use positive language.
Talk of cupcake and candy bans is apt to be met with opposition. So re-frame the discussion to promote positive actions and intentions. In other words, advocate the idea of healthy classrooms with nutritious snacks that will help keep kids nourished and ready to learn. It’s OK to mention the overload of junk food and sugar in the classroom (or elsewhere at your child’s school) and its potential impact on student health, but make the point quickly and move on to constructive actions and solutions. (See The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids are Healthy and Ready to Learn from Action for Healthy Kids.).
Form a team.
It’s easy to write off one parent. It’s a lot less easy to write off a group. So work on identifying and recruiting other parents–along with community members such as physicians and registered dietitians–who would like to see healthier food in the classroom. This guide–Creating Healthy Schools: Tips & Tricks for Using Grassroots Organizing to Protect Kids from Fast Food Marketing–from Corporate Accountability International has some fantastic tips for getting others on board.
Offer to help.
School teachers and administrators have a lot on their plates. So don’t just march into their offices and make demands. Offer to spearhead the effort by making healthy classroom snack lists to distribute to parents, organizing healthy class parties, or running a healthy school fundraiser. Ask for their input and volunteer to roll up your sleeves.
Check your wellness policy.
Every school participating in the National School Lunch Program is required to have a wellness policy include should include goals for food served in the classroom. You may find yours posted on your school district website. If not, contact district administration to get a copy. It could be your secret weapon to making change. (See Getting Junk Food Out of School: How Your School Wellness Policy Can Help and What to Do if Your School Wellness Policy Isn’t Being Enforced: A Guide for Parents.).
Don’t let fear stop you!
I still get nervous speaking up about offering healthier food and beverage choices to kids at school, soccer games and after-school programs. But voicing my concerns has led to positive changes (and sometimes even dramatic improvements) about nine times out of 10. Never ONCE have I regretted asking a teacher, program director, sports league or coach to bring on the fresh fruit or stop serving candy and soda. Our kids need and deserve healthy, fresh food. So don’t let fear of rejection stop you from advocating for healthy change. If you don’t try, you’ll never succeed. And if teachers or school administrators DO turn down your ideas, don’t fight with them or back down. Instead, try a new approach.
Focus on the big picture.
Change is hard and can take time. To avoid getting discouraged, keep your expectations realistic, ignore small setbacks and resolve to keep at it no matter what. Rather than putting lots of time and energy into fighting small battles, consider steps that you can take that will have a bigger impact. (SEE Healthy Classrooms Initiative: Educating Teachers on Healthy Celebrations, Non-food Rewards & More! for an example of broader-impact measure.).
While advocating for change isn’t for the faint of heart (See Taking a Stand Against Junk Food: Why It’s Hard–But We Need to Anyway!), it can be incredibly rewarding. One parent CAN make a difference–especially if you use the right approach. Two, three, or four parents is even better. So stand up and insist on a healthier food environment for your child–and other kids!
Are you fed up with junk food at your child’s school? What, if anything, have you tried to do about it? Do you have any of your own tips to share? Please share your advice or story in the comments below!