How to Engage Parents in School Wellness Policies and Action Plans

Healthy Food Choices in Schools October 06, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Parents can be key players in school wellness efforts.  From wellness committee membership to volunteering at one-time events, parents provide valuable input, assistance and support.  Use this “how to” sheet to motivate and recruit parents to join your school’s wellness initiative, and maintain their interest to achieve your mutual goals.  

1. Develop your message:  Why should parents be interested in school wellness?   Develop a brief “elevator speech” including some or all of the below points:

happy adults
  • Healthy students are more successful students.  Research shows that healthier students are more likely to succeed in school, from improved academic achievement to reduced behavioral concerns.
  • Unhealthy children and youth are more likely to become unhealthy adults.  Healthy habits developed in childhood last a lifetime.
  • When the healthy choice is the easy choice, individuals are more likely to choose the healthy option.   Working to make sure there are lots of healthy choices in school is a great way to establish healthy habits.
  • Parents care about their child’s community, so local information and stories can be powerful tools to illustrate your concerns as well as your goals.  School weight status data, a personal story from a community member, or other local examples make a compelling case for getting involved.

2. Invite Parents:  How will you let parents know about this opportunity?  Invite parents to join your efforts, using the below strategies or by developing your own: 

  • A personal invitation encourages participation.  Consider parents who have an interest in health and/or education and invite these individuals directly.  Phone calls, emails or brief letters are all appropriate and appreciated.
  • A school-wide invitation can ensure a diversity of parents.  Posters, backpack flyers, website or newsletter messages can serve this purpose.  Announcements to groups like PTO/PTAs, or at events such as Open Houses, may also be beneficial.
  • Invitations should include:
    • “Elevator Speech" 
    • The value of parental participation
    • Highlights of past accomplishments or goals for the future
    • Clear request (Join a committee? Help with an activity?)
    • Contact information for questions or responses

3. Maintain Parents’ Commitment:  How will you keep parents engaged in school wellness efforts?  Consider what makes participation easy and parents feel valued.  For example:

  • How will you keep parents engaged in school wellness efforts?  Consider what makes participation easy and parents feel valued.  For example:
    • Be creative in setting logistics to make participation easy whenever possible, including meeting or event times and locations, transportation assistance and childcare options.
    • Offer varied opportunities for participation, from committee membership to event assistance.
    • Provide relevant information and time for parental questions and input.
    • Ensure a feeling of accomplishment – set small, attainable goals.
    • Give incentives, from recognition in local media to items such as gift certificates.
    • Ask!  What do parents want or need to stay involved?

Contributor 

Sarah Bentley-Garfinkel Healthy Schools NY, Health Initiative

Source

“Parents in Action:  A Guide to Engaging Parents in Local School Wellness Policies”.  Available at http://www.californiaprojectlean.org/doc.asp?id=169#Promotora_Lesson_Plans_


 

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.