Children’s food preferences are influenced by their parents and families from their very first bites. Whether Mom or Dad is a gourmet chef or the family prefers eating out, children’s eating habits are closely tied to those of their parents. Capitalize on this influence by gaining support from parents for your school food program and healthy school food initiatives!
Members of the Parent & Teachers Organization/Association (PTO/PTA) are a great place to start. They have already made the choice to positively contribute to the school environment; you can provide them with another avenue of involvement! Parents involved in the PTO/PTA are committed to nurturing happy, healthy students. They will also have connections with other parents as well as connections with in the school community – namely, influential Board of Education Members.
Contacting your school’s parent organization is easy! First, locate the name and contact information of the president of the organization. The best place to get this information is from your school’s main office. During your conversation, give him/her an outline of your plan and what specifically you are requesting help with, for example:
- Redecorating the lunchroom
- Helping to plan and participate in special event, such as new food tastings
- Collecting data (student satisfaction surveys or tray waste measurements)
- Helping with fundraising
- Advocating your Smarter Lunchroom initiatives to community groups and businesses and to school leaders
The PTO/PTA president can give you an idea of what resources (financial and human) they have to offer. You can then design a plan of action to present at the next PTO/PTA meeting. Be sure to make explicit what you are asking for, while also staying open to new ideas and perspectives. Appealing to parents’ desire to keep their kids happy and healthy is a great way to leverage support for lunchroom changes. Be sure to emphasize that the goal of your changes is to encourage healthy food choices and consumption and to create a healthier environment that provides children with the nutrients they need to be great learners!
“Tips for Connecting with General Community Members.” Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs.