As a mom and a school nutrition professional, I am keenly aware of how important it is to provide kids a healthy environment to learn and succeed. Multiple studies confirm that diet and physical activity have a direct effect on academic performance, and kids who eat better, sleep better, and are healthier are at an advantage to learn better. Kids with healthy lifestyles tend to miss fewer days of school, and score higher in math.
So, you do everything you can at home to feed them properly, give them plenty of opportunities for active fun–bikes, skateboards, basketballs, after school sports and dance lessons–and make sure they get to bed on time.
But what if their schools are undermining your efforts? It’s not uncommon for kids to be rewarded for good behavior and participation with junk food, such as an ice cream party for the class that saves the most box tops. We’ve had teachers and staff who hand out candies when they see kids being well-behaved or helpful. And don’t get me started on the classroom holiday/birthday parties.
School lunches have improved a lot in terms of nutrition over the years, and Federal Smart Snack regulations have limited the amount of junk food that can be sold to children during school, however there is room for growth. School gardens, or farm-to-school partnerships can improve kids’ access to fresh, great tasting fruits and veggies. Healthier, non-food fundraisers can take the place of selling chocolates, cookie dough, and pastries, and still be profitable.
Where do you begin to make some of these changes? Many parents I’ve talked to have expressed their frustration with not knowing who or how to present their ideas, gaining support from school staff and other parents, and not fully understanding the school hierarchy.
Well, thanks to Action For Healthy Kids (AFHK) and Colorado PTA, parent engagement is totally possible. I recently attended a Parent Engagement workshop hosted by both groups, and I came away with so much information and so many great ideas, that I was ready to hit the ground running!
Want to make some changes in your own school? Here’s how to get started!
- Get the facts on childhood obesity, and the relationship between nutrition and academic success.
- Healthy habits start at home. Make sure you are setting a good example by choosing healthy snacks and beverages, getting at least 60 minutes of active time each day, stepping away from the screens, and making time to eat healthy meals together.
- Connect with your school’s parent group (PTA, PTO, etc.) or form one if there’s not already one in place! See Colorado PTA’s website for info on how to start your own chapter.
- Check out AFHK’s website for study data, actionable ideas, and support. If possible, attend a local workshop or Wednesday Webinar.
- Gather other parents, staff, and community members to brainstorm and work together. Some ideas: building a school garden, creating safer walking/biking routes to school, purchasing sports/playground equipment, holding a walk-a-thon or fun run, and starting new, healthy traditions for classroom parties.
- Make a plan, put it into action, and CELEBRATE your accomplishments!
What is one change you would like to make in your school(s)?
All images copyright Action For Healthy Kids. I attended a free public workshop with Action for Healthy Kids and Colorado PTA. This post was not sponsored, and no compensation was made. All opinions and text are my own.