Working Together to Help Address Child Hunger


Reposted from the Dairy Good blog

Research shows a positive link between good health, learning and academic performance. However, 16 million kids in America don’t get the food they need, which means their hunger becomes a barrier to learning. That’s right: hunger is a huge educational issue, which I consider a big issue for National PTA and the larger child health and education communities.

Schools are often best positioned to serve as the community’s center for meeting the needs of the whole child, even though the well-being of children is primarily the responsibility of the parents. According to Share Our Strength, while breakfast and lunch are available to kids in need at a free or reduced price, there is a larger than acceptable percentage of kids who are not eating these meals and are therefore still at school hungry.

In three years, I would like to see schools and communities address the issue of child hunger by:

  • Making breakfast universally available for all kids, so it can be eaten by all kids
  • Offering breakfast in every classroom
  • Making summer meal programs available in every community, so it can be enjoyed by every kid in need without stigma

We at National PTA know families are key players in addressing the childhood hunger epidemic. Families want to keep their kids safe from harm and want them to succeed. That said, there are real and valid barriers to doing so – either it’s lack of education and understanding about the resources that are available, it can be a parent’s bad experience with the education system, or it can be an issue of pride or fear of stigmatization.

PTAs, families and schools can partner to tear down these barriers. Together they can:

  • Engage families in the school community and provide better, targeted education about school breakfast, school lunch and summer meal programs available, and the connection between hunger and learning
  • Develop partnerships with food, farm-to-school and hunger organizations to help connect families with these needed local resources
  • Encourage and mobilize our community and local level PTAs to provide necessary provisions for families in the school community who are in need

We’re not alone in this effort. Fuel Up to Play 60, a school-based program created by America’s dairy farmers and the NFL with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is working to increase school breakfast awareness and participation to make sure all kids start their day with the necessary fuel to help them succeed through its campaign, Fuel Greatness.

With so many systems in place, children don’t need to be hungry. Through education families can better understand the resources available to them – which can start to make a difference in our schools and communities. Education, real, tireless education, and partnerships across the community are an important first step.

Otha Thornton is President of National Parent Teacher Association.

Developing a Culture of Family Meals at Your School

KCM PS 32 photo 3As a registered dietitian with a special interest in child health, I know that children today face higher odds than ever of growing up to be obese or develop a chronic disease related to diet and lifestyle. Parents and teachers know that it’s critical that we instill today’s youth with healthy habits that will help prevent such outcomes later in life.

Many school-based programs are working to help children develop healthy habits, but did you know there’s one action that parents can take at home that can also have a huge impact? A recent study found that as few as one or two family meals a week can help protect children against obesity later in life. And it’s not just healthy weight that’s associated with the habit. Other studies have demonstrated that regular family meals are associated with improved academic performance, lower rates of adolescent substance abuse and overall increased feelings of family togetherness.

kidscookmondayThe trouble is, in today’s crazy world of homework, afterschool activities and parental work schedules, finding the time and energy to get the whole family together for a meal can be a challenge. That’s where Monday comes in. At The Kids Cook Monday, the non-profit public health campaign where I’m on staff, we have a simple slogan, “Start your week off right, make Monday family night!” Our research shows that Monday is the day people are most predisposed to adopting new healthy habits that lead to lasting change.

So we’re working with parents and schools across the country to create school cultures where family meals on Mondays – or least once a week – are the norm. And all of our resources are free! PTA members can promote the benefits of sharing meals together (and getting kids involved in the cooking process) by sharing our free weekly recipe newsletter, The Family Dinner Date, as well as the inspiring promotional graphics on our Facebook and Twitter channels and the free downloadable recipe PDFs on our website.

KCM PS 32 photo 1We’re also working with PTAs to kick-off school-wide participation in The Kids Cook Monday with engaging in-person cooking events, such as the event recently organized by the PTA Wellness Committee of the Samuel Mills Sprole School (P.S. 32) in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. At the evening event, I led 23 families in cooking two delicious The Kids Cook Monday recipes. Families heard about the many benefits of cooking and eating together and also learned helpful tips about which steps in the cooking process are appropriate for parents versus kids.

Students went home with raffle prizes and personalized chef’s hats and parents received recipe printouts and other useful tools. The school’s PTA now has plans to encourage family meals by distributing The Kids Cook Monday recipes in their weekly newsletter and holding future cooking events.

If you’d like to bring The Kids Cook Monday to your school, I’d love to help you out. Please contact us to get started with this life-long healthy habit!

Diana K. Rice, RD is the registered dietitian on staff with The Kids Cook Monday, a nonprofit initiative of The Monday Campaigns.

Best Practices for Effective Presentations – Part 4: 8 Simple Ways to Conduct a Successful Webinar

Pano4Conducting a webinar requires more than just technical know-how. It means that you, as a presenter, are able to use this online platform in a meaningful way to effectively communicate your message.

In addition to the suggestions shared in Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series for preparing and conducting presentations, here are 8 simple ways to conduct a successful webinar:

  1. Invite people to attend your webinar at least one week in advance (preferably two weeks if possible). Promote your webinar event on social media platforms and reach out to key contacts to assist you in sending out emails. Your first invitation should provide a brief overview of the content along with the date and time of the event (make sure to indicate the correct time zone). In your invitation, provide the registration link to the webinar along with any technical requirements or additional directions. A few days prior to the event, a follow-up email should be sent to those who have registered as a reminder.
  2. Become familiar with the webinar features and go through a trial run. Every webinar service provides free basic support pages online to assist you in learning the various features. Take time to download and read any available user guides or visit YouTube for posted demonstrations. Go through a trial run of the presentation with the assistance of a friend. Test your audio levels and screen sharing features while practicing the delivery of your content. Ask a friend for feedback on ways to improve.
  3. Decide if a webcam is necessary for your presentation. This may come as a surprise to some, but the use of a webcam is completely optional during a webinar. In fact, some presenters feel that this can be distracting to the audience. The use of a webcam also sets the expectation that you will maintain eye contact with it and your audience so that your presentation doesn’t look unprofessional. To easily address these issues, it is recommended that you only enable your webcam at the very beginning of your webinar. This will still allow you to make a personal connection with your audience while avoiding some of the downsides of using a webcam. Otherwise, if you are not comfortable using one, simply use a high quality photo of yourself during your introduction.
  4. Sign on at least 10 minutes before the presentation. Greet those who arrive early through the webinar chat feature. It’s okay to wait a couple extra minutes for late arrivals but make sure you don’t wait longer than that as this can make your participants anxious.
  5. Mute all attendees using the webinar control panel. When unmuting attendees, only allow one person at a time to speak and mute them again when they are finished. Close any applications such as email or social media programs that could possibly trigger an embarrassing pop-up during your screen sharing. Also, turn off any devices that may vibrate or cause distractions during your presentation.
  6. Speak clearly and slowly so that everyone can understand you. Avoid rustling papers or chewing anything as this can be heard by attendees. Use a conversational tone when speaking so that your voice engages your audience. Also, to ensure high sound quality, use a headset mic (one that places the mic by your mouth). Do not use a speakerphone or your computer’s built-in mic as these typically provide low sound quality.
  7. Make good use of the webinar chat feature to engage your live online audience. If possible, ask for someone to assist you as a facilitator by welcoming new attendees and answering their questions using the chat feature. This can be extremely helpful in addressing any small technical issues that participants may experience during the webinar so that you are free to present without disruptions. Use the chat feature to collect questions from attendees as well as gather their responses to your own questions. This can be done at the beginning, middle, and end of your presentation to ensure maximum audience engagement. If interested, you may also upgrade your webinar services to receive extra interaction features such as built-in assessment and polling options.
  8. Lastly, send a follow-up email and survey. Based on your registration data, consider inviting anyone who missed your webinar to attend a similar event that you may be conducting in the future. If you decide to upgrade to a paid webinar service, you will also have the option to send a recording of the presentation to those who missed it. As part of best practice, those who attended your webinar should receive a survey requesting feedback on your presentation. Some of the simplest and most robust survey tools that are available for free include: SoGoSurvey, Survey Planet, and Typeform. Each of these tools is unique in its own way, so take the time to see which one will fit your needs.

As with any new skill, becoming an effective presenter requires practice and a willingness to try something new. Whether you are presenting face-to-face or virtually, keep your focus on your audience and the rest will follow.

Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.


Join “Everyone Matters Day,” April 2

EveryoneMattersWould you believe that 25 Mayors across the U.S. will join us with their own #IAM selfie affirming something about themselves, and inviting their residents via social media to join them – in collectively celebrating that EVERYONE matters to the vitality of their city?

It’s happening on April 2.

And I want you to join the schools across the U.S. and the Mayors of the following cities: Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, San Antonio, Calgary, Indianapolis, Austin, Charlotte, Fort Worth, Milwaukee, Portland, Albuquerque, Atlanta, Kansas City, Arlington, Tampa,  Pittsburgh, Newark, Lexington, Plano, Louisville, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

April 2 is our 2nd annual “Everyone Matters Day” – which is to affirm that EVERYONE matters, EVERYONE deserves respect and dignity, EVERYONE has the right to be EXACTLY who they are, without shame, judgment, attack, marginalization.

Kids, even more than adults, need to hear, and see – and participate with their hearts and spirit – in this dynamic, collective, profound exercise in CELEBRATION that EACH PERSON in that school matters EQUALLY.

Which is why most Mayors will be visiting a local school, to do a collective, massive, LOVE-IN with a group #IAM selfie, each holding up a sign to jointly affirm something about themselves.

What it says is:   “I Matter!”

IT’S NOT TOO LATE to join us.  Let me repeat.  It’s not too late to organize an #IAM selfie for a class, for a school, for a small group.  Or even to invite your Mayor to join you at a school. We’ll help you.

(We’d also love for you to take the plunge – and do YOUR OWN #IAM selfie!  EACH one of us needs to affirm that we are okay JUST AS WE ARE.  None of us hears that enough – not adults, not kids.)

Join us.  Click here, to add your name.

If you have any questions or ideas, or need help, email me at  I’m the president of Everyone Matters.

HeathCliff Rothman is founder of the big-tent inclusion, dignity and empowerment movement, Everyone Matters.  The social entrepreneur and former journalist’s previous campaign was a youth-engagement,  issue-oriented video competition, Film Your Issue, which was supported by major tech companies as well as Barack Obama, Walter Cronkite, Tom Brokaw and others.  

The Art of Sharing Power

SharingPowerCo-authored by Ethan Clark.

Lights! Camera! Action! Check out the following dramatic script to see an example of how arts education can be limited and one parent who wants to make a difference.

Colors for Timmy: A dramatic play about sharing power
by Sherri Wilson and Ethan Clark

Timmy Wilson

Mrs. Wilson
Principal Clark

Late one evening at the Wilson’s dinner table…

Mrs. Wilson: “What was the best part of your day today, Timmy?”

Timmy: “I liked the painting we did in art class but we only had two colors to choose from and all of our pictures looked the same.”

Mrs. Wilson: “What? Only two colors? Why don’t they have more?”

Timmy: “Mr. Clark said they didn’t have any money in the budget to pay for more paint.”

Later that week, at the principal’s office…

Mrs. Wilson: “How can we get more colors of paint for the children?”

Mr. Clark: “The budget decisions were made by the committee last year.”

Mrs. Wilson: “How can I get on the committee? I’d like to make sure that all the kids get all the colors they need!”

Does this dramatic script resonate with you? Do you think your school needs more arts education? Ask your friends to role play this with you so you can practice having a voice in decisions that affect children. For inspiration check out The Quest, a national award winning film production from Reflections participant Ansel LaPier of Liberty, WA.

The PTA National Standards for Family School Partnerships were developed by leading researchers and practitioners to empower PTA leaders, parents, educators, community members and students to work together for the educational success of all children. The fifth of the six standards Sharing Power. Families and school staff should be equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs. Families and school staff should be equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices and programs.

Share power and advance arts learning in your school, with these 3 steps:

  1. Create a PTA taskforce of student, teacher and other school leaders. Welcome community arts professionals.
  2. Assess your school’s arts in education needs: Survey school leaders identify school policies that support arts teaching and learning (e.g. arts learning standards, arts instructional requirements, assessment of arts learning, licensure requirements for arts teachers, etc.). Use the Arts Education Partnership’s State of the States Arts Education State Policy Summary to compare school policies with state laws. Identify areas needing improvement.
  3. Develop an action plan with recommendations to school leaders on how update, adopt, or implement art education policies. Include your “shared power” strategy in official school documents such as a school improvement plan.

The arts — and the National PTA Reflections® program, in particular — can be a valuable tool for building stronger partnerships in your school community and meeting the Standard for Sharing Power.

Read more to learn about each of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and the steps you can take with PTA Reflections to meet them. Also, consider enrolling in the National PTA School of Excellence program to gain new ways to engage all families in each of the standards. National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. Contact or call (800)307-4782 for more info.

Fifth in a series of blog posts co-authored by National PTA’s Senior Manager of Family Engagement Sherri Wilson & Manager of Arts in Education Ethan Clark.


Best Practices for Effective Presentations – Part 3: Exploring Free Webinar Solutions

Pano3As we learned in Part 2 of this series, presenting in front of a live audience provides many advantages including the opportunity to network and interact with others while offering the added benefit of an intimate learning environment. However, face-to-face presentations often pose two key disadvantages for attendees: time and travel costs. Finding personal time to attend an event that may potentially last several hours and would require extensive travel is simply not a viable option for most people with a busy schedule.

To overcome these barriers, more and more live presentations are being conducted over the web. Also known as “web conferencing,” webinars have several advantages over face-to-face presentations. Webinars effectively eliminate the need for any travel for both attendees and presenters. It allows attendees to access a live presentation from anywhere in the world as long as they have internet connectivity and a computer. Another advantage is that most webinars are short in duration with average time frames between 30 minutes to 1 hour. This facilitates learning and increases knowledge retention.

If you are seeking to reach a broader audience while still being able to interact with attendees during your live presentation, then a webinar may be just what you need to get your message out. While there are many different webinar services on the market, most allow you to share your screen with online participants so that you can present directly from your computer. The only other equipment that is necessary for conducting your webinar is a computer microphone or a phone. While a webcam is optional, it can help you make a personal connection with your audience.

Even though webinars are becoming extremely popular, it can be difficult to find free alternatives that will allow more than just a handful of attendees for each session. However, for those that are on a shoestring budget and still want the ability to present to a large audience, there are two free webinar services worth considering:

AnyMeeting – This service is free with ads. It allows for meetings of up to 200 people and has essential functionality like screen sharing, VoIP and phone conferencing, meeting recording, and even follow-up email functionality.

FreeScreenSharing – This online service is ad-free and lets you share your screen online with up to 96 people at a time without any time limitations. This webinar service also provides free phone conferencing, chat functionality, and meeting detail reports.

Whichever webinar service you decide to use, take the necessary time to learn its features until you feel comfortable enough to use the tools with an audience. As we move on to Part 4, the final article in this series, you will learn how to conduct a successful webinar in order to meet the needs of your virtual audience. Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 4.