As a parent or caregiver, you want the best for your child. You want them to be healthy, have fun, learn, and get as much out of life as possible. Children have a demanding schedule. One of the best ways to meet the needs of their busy young lives is to ensure that they have the best possible nutrition to fuel them through the day. Because children spend a large portion of their growing years in school, it makes sense that schools offer a variety of healthy food options. Parents may feel like they have no control or become frustrated with the lack of nutritious food options at school. So what can a parent do?
- There’s always the option to “brown bag” it and pack your child a healthy and tasty nutritious lunch to take to school with them. If you allow them to be a part of the lunch process, choose what they want, help you make it and help pack it, chances are they will be much more excited about eating it.
- Be informed when choosing to buy the school lunch. Some schools have their menus with nutrition information online where you can educate yourself and your child on healthier options. If not, generally you can be provided with this information through the school’s food service personnel.
- Power in numbers. Speak with other parents and get them involved. We all know there is power in numbers and you have a much louder voice if you have a group behind you.
- Attend a school board or taskforce meeting to voice your frustrations and give suggestions.
- Find out who is coordinating your school district’s wellness committee and inform them that you would like to become more involved or even join the committee. Your PTA, principal, school food service provider, school board members or superintendent should be able to help you get involved.
- Find out if the school has a cafeteria advisory committee in place. If not, speak with the principal about forming one.
Tips For Speaking With Your School Foodservice Director from The School Nutrition Association (SNA) website.
- Be informed. Schools are overseen by state and federal legislation that requires them to maintain certain nutrition standards. There are some new laws that will be enforced this coming year, and some new legislation that we’re still waiting to be passed. See if your state has a food a food policy advocacy agency, such as California’s agency, https://www.cfpa.net.
- Remember that school meals are a business. Like any other business they cannot run at a loss. If changes are to be made, there generally needs to be financial backing.
- It maybe helpful to speak with other parents first to discuss options.
- Visit the school cafeteria to make your own observations.
Depending on the age of your child, here are some suggestions on what to look for:
- In the cafeteria pay attention to the whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, low-fat milk products, protein and beverage options.
- Check out the vending machines and snack carts.
- Make an appointment to see the School Foodservice Director: write down your questions ahead of time and present your concerns in a positive manner.
- Call your School Foodservice Director to thank him or her when positive changes have been made.
For additional ideas and resources go to the SNA website at www.schoolnutrition.org and look under Parent Information.