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How Parents Can Advocate for Healthy School Food

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Whether you are a new parent or have multiple children, you never stop worrying about their health and wellbeing. This is especially true when you can’t be with them. Whether they are at school or somewhere else, you want to insure that they are in the best environment possible for them.

Many parents closely monitor their child’s diet, and for good reason - a healthy diet is often linked to a range of health benefits that can be lifelong. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and limiting sugars, starches, and fats is linked to decreased incidence of diabetes to less risk of developing heart disease later in life.

One place where children spend a lot of their young lives eating is the school cafeteria, and this can often be a source of consternation for parents that want to raise their children on a healthy, well-balanced diet.

A lot of foods found in cafeterias are loaded with preservatives and tend to offer delicious yet totally unhealthy options. The goal is to get kids to eat, so a lot of cafeterias serve the equivalent of “junk food.” But what is a parent to do in this situation? After all, school lunches are made to fit within a certain budget and be accessible to all students. Raising the price of schools lunches could negatively impact some families who cannot afford it. Their argument will always be: “Why can’t you just make your child’s lunch yourself?”

But that’s missing the point, isn’t it? It isn’t just about your child having healthy options, but also about other children having that as well.

Here’s how you can advocate for healthy meals in your school’s cafeteria.

The first step is find like-minded parents with whom you can partner to work together to advocate for healthier food options at the school’s cafeteria. Not only is a diplomatic approach more effective, but it is also more likely to build rapport for your cause. You’re not the only parent who feels the way you feel about school lunches, so find friends and build a team dedicated to improving the school.

The next steps are quite simple but could take some time.

As for a second step, parents should educate themselves on healthy food options and school nutrition. Only when armed with knowledge derived from research will a parent’s voice be heard and taken seriously. You can’t make this about the quality of the food, but rather it has to be about the impact it is having on the student’s. Simply saying preservative-laden, carbohydrate-loaded meals are bad is ineffective. Tying it to medical research gives you and your cause credibility.

The third step involves combining steps one and two and coming up with a plan of action in concert with other concerned parents. What is it that you want the school to change exactly? Make a list of your demands and move forward. This is the best way to make incremental change and present a united front.

And the final step involves reaching out to the school itself. You can find someone that is sympathetic in the administration or even a representative on the school board. Building a coalition is the hardest part but once off the ground this provides a nexus of change for food in the school cafeteria.

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