Parents have power. When your children are in trouble you do anything to help. A parent concerned for the health and well-being of their child is a powerful force. So when parents who normally prepare delicious and healthy breakfasts and dinners for their children witness the lunches served at school, all sorts of emotions well-up. But what can you do? Can one parent really change lunches for an entire school or district? Often, we at thelunchbox.org get asked these questions and have prepared the list below based on our experiences in this field with schools, kids, and the lunch ladies themselves. It’s a touchy and complicated subject, so be sure to write in with any questions or comments you may have. And one day, perhaps you will be become one of our School Lunch Heroes!
Concerned with the food served at your child’s school? Seeing changes all around you and wishing Chef Ann or Jamie Oliver would just come and fix it all? Well, YOU can do it! The Food Family Farming Foundation believes in the power of individuals working together to make real, on the ground change and we are here to help.
Whether you have time for just one thing or the ability to gather a group and make systematic change, everyone has a place in school food reform.
If you can do just one thing:
Make a little noise. Go experience what lunch is like in the lunchroom and while you are there talk with the food services staff if they have the time. Get a good feel for the actual quality of the food and then stir up the conversation among parents. Even if you don’t have the time, perhaps someone else in your community can take on some of the steps listed below!
If you can do MORE:
Follow the steps below to help make meaningful change at your school.
- Eat! Have a lunch date with your daughter or son to experience for yourself what their school lunch is like. Whether it is amazingly healthy or disgustingly gross, it’s best to find out first-hand.
- Find others who care about school food and form a committee. Ask around and attend a PTA meeting to see if other parents are concerned just as you are. Get together diverse stakeholders including parents, school staff, students, and members of the community. Remember, you can’t do this without the school food staff and don’t assume they would not love to serve higher quality food; approach with a kind and open mind.
- Research. There are a whole myriad of free tools and resources available to you at The Lunch Box. Two documents in particular that might come in handy are the School Lunch Initiative in Berkeley, CA’s “Lunch Matters” document explaining how school lunch was changed in the Berkeley Unified School District and What You Need to Know About School Lunch a good starter document to read. You can also visit our Resources page, check the “Parent” on the right-hand side bar and a list of resources that are parent-specific will pop up on the screen.
- Define what you want. Decide what a perfect school lunch would look like to you, then take a number of steps back and create a list of gradual changes that could be made. Take pictures and gather recipes (great school lunch recipe selection here!) to help create your case. Also find your school or school district’s Wellness Policy. Every school has been required to have one since June of 2006 and they dictate what can and cannot be served in your school. Check out a model Wellness Policy here.
- Meet. Find out who holds power over what school lunch looks like – Is it your lunch ladies? Your school district’s food services department? Your principal? Take your concerns and goals directly to these people.
- Be open. Changing school lunch is a difficult process! Keep that in mind as you speak with all the various stakeholders and learn when to step up and when to step down. You may even want to volunteer in your school’s kitchen for a day or more to gain perspective.
- Involve the community. Spread the word! Without a LOT of support you will not get far. Talking with folks about why these changes are so important is crucial to success. Host an informational event about the state of school lunch, set up a booth at community events with a petition to sign, and fundraise if necessary.
- Ask questions. What would your community like to see happen?
- Talk with others doing similar things across the country. Utilize the “The Lunchroom” on TheLunchBox.org to connect with others doing similar work and bounce ideas after one another. You can post in the general forum or get more specific in one of the User Groups.
- Get active nationally. Utilize all the resources on The Lunch Box, donate to the school lunch cause, and meet with your representatives to talk about what can be done to help keep our kids healthy and nourished!
You made it, remember anything you start with will make a difference; we’d love for you to let us know how it goes! Comment below or write Sunny at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know how you have put this advice to work.