Food for Thought

Grassroots work to Transform School Food Culture

This month, we have the honor of being invited to do a breakout session at the Center for Nutrition Studies (CNS) Wellness Retreat. It was held 10/31-11/5 in Tucson, AZ.

What a beautiful setting for their first event of this kind. The location was excellent. The CNS staff and Board Members were warm and inviting. The attendees were open to meeting and chatting. And the food was fantastic!

On 11/4, Carrie Bruno (one of PBNM’s Board Members and 6 Million Seeds Podcast co-host) and I held a breakout session called Kids’ Food at School and Elsewhere: How Important Is it? We had about 20 participants in the session, and they were all fired up about changing what our littles eat at school.

We started the session with current facts about the state of the nation related to kids and nutrition. As you know, there’s lots of room for improvement. After that, we dove into problem-solving using the 6 Hats Method, created by E. DeBono. By the end of our 90-minute session, we had the beginnings of a plan for parents and caregivers to start making a real difference in school food culture.

Everyone in the room contributed to the plan so that we all owned it. What a great way to solve problems! Here are the notes in case you are interested.

Plan for Transforming School Food and School Food Culture 

Created at The Center for Nutrition Studies Wellness Retreat
Tucson, Arizona 11.4.22

Goal: Get Children to Eat More Whole Plant Foods by Improving School Food Offerings

Build relations ships with school teachers and administrators to implement the following:

  • Cooking demos in schools
  • In-services for teachers
  • Obtain a plant-powered food curriculum and ensure it is aligned with the school’s educational standards and requirements. (Contact us! 6ms@pbnm.org)
  • Find Cheerleaders and Champions (staff and non-staff, parents, school board?)
  • Build a way that volunteering to teach other kids about plant-based eating could count as community service credits for High School kids
  • Use field trips to farms and Farmers’ Markets
  • Have Show and Tell about fruits and veggies, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, and mushrooms
  • Use social media to keep everyone informed and engaged (Ex. memes, picture frames, jokes)
  • Tap into the park district to create classes and find a useable kitchen/class space
  • Use local resources like community colleges, culinary schools, and teacher education programs (graduate and undergraduate)
  • Foster competition between classes or sports teams (Ex. How many servings of veggies does your class eat at school?)
  • Create handouts and education sheets for the kids to take home. (Ex. Quick WFPB meals at home)
  • Have one day a month(?) to invite the parents in to eat with their children (Ex. Muffins with Mom, Donuts with Dad) but make it healthy. Make the name catchy.
  • Have a working school garden
  • Have a WFPB day sponsored by the community

Any of these ideas could stand on its own and would be a great start to transforming School Food Culture. However, they would be great if implemented as a stepwise approach to getting the kids to eat more fruits and veggies. You could choose whichever one(s) work best in your school or in your child’s class. The best suggestion is the one that can get implemented.

Other Action Steps:

  • Talk to classroom teachers, principals, and food service directors about removing junk food from vending machines, at sporting events, and booster clubs/fundraisers.
  • Bring fruits and healthy snacks for the teachers’ breakroom.
  • Join the PTSA and bring samples of the yummiest WFPB recipes
  • Run for School Board
  • Teach cooking as a volunteer group
  • Start a cooking club after school.
  • Learn about how much time the kids have to eat and whether it is before or after recess.
  • Focus on working at the grassroots level and move up from there
  • Find a sympathetic local legislator and work with them.

PBNM is committed to supporting transformation in kids’ food culture using grassroots methods. Please let us know if you would like our help to implement changes in your school food settings. There are definitely ways to do it effectively and proactively, and that help build the community!

Contributing Writer: Meryl Fury

Meryl Fury is President and CEO of PBNM.org.  She is a Registered Nurse with a Masters Degree in Nursing.  Professionally, she has specialized in public health and underserved populations. Personally, she is mad about healthy eating. She enjoys everything about whole-life health, especially working with older people who can greatly benefit from the healing power of whole food plant-based eating. Meryl is the founder, and CEO of Balance Forward Health and Wellness, LLC, which focuses on playfully supporting people who want to attain vibrant health over the entire lifespan. You can read more about her on her website at www.balanceforwardhealthandwellness.com.