Kilgour Elementary: Healthy Food Zone

“Healthy Hands.” Students creating permanent art installations for the cafeteria makeover

Change can be challenging to initiate, especially when you are just one elementary school in a public-school district with over 60 schools. It’s easy to feel too small.

But thanks to our Healthy School Meals grant, Kilgour Elementary School in Cincinnati, Ohio was given an opportunity to stand out and help make change happen. Not only have we been able to take steps to improve the perception of our school meals, we have also been able to create partnerships and momentum to improve our school’s wellness culture.

To help create a positive, healthy-lifestyle atmosphere, this year our school’s cafeteria will host six student-created permanent art installations, as well as a large scale “Farm to School” mural, illustrated by two talented collaborators—a Kilgour parent and school art teacher.

Ever wonder if Kindergartners know how to make a salad? Ours do! Thanks to our “Free Salad Bar Friday’s” every student and staff member can visit the school’s salad bar on Friday and create their very own green masterpiece. Every week over 100 students participate in the free salad bar—students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to experience school meals.

Kindergarten students enjoying “Free Salad Bar Friday’s.”

Growing a positive partnership with our school district’s Food Service Administrative team has given us many opportunities, like bringing in extra salad dressing for students and trying new food items like sweet potato sticks before other schools. Our partnership also has led us to the donation of a Tower Garden growing system to our school, which gives students firsthand experience in growing their own food and creating meals and snacks from the harvest.

Our partnerships have also blossomed in Kilgour Strong Cooking Classes. Local top chefs, in partnership with local distributors, have volunteered their time to help promote school meals. Students in grades 4-6 will be given an opportunity to participate in four free cooking classes, during which they will create a meal served in our school’s cafeteria. These students will be empowered to recreate these meals at home, plus learn why the ingredients are smart choices.

Being one school out of 25 schools awarded the National PTA School Meals Grant reminds us that no matter how small we may feel, we are powerful, we can create change and that we certainly can stand out.

 

Lauren Boehm is a proud mom of a second and third grader, and co-chair of Kilgour Elementary School’s Wellness Committee.

Empowering Students to Make Healthy Meal Choices in School

March is National Nutrition Month and one of my jobs as a parent is to make sure my children are eating healthy, nutritious foods. However, I have to hope that they are making those same healthy choices in my absence while they are at school. The school week leaves a lot of time for friends to offer unhealthy snacks that they’ve brought from home and for one too many cupcakes during birthday celebrations in class.

So, how do we teach our children to choose healthy food alternatives?

As a PTA president for the last four years, I’ve spent a lot of time in our school and began to see the positive impact being made on healthy initiatives for students. I knew that I wanted to be more involved in this effort, so when our PTA had the opportunity to apply for a Healthy Meals Grant we jumped at the chance…and were selected!

Our goal for the year is to increase breakfast and lunch participation by 10%, which sounds great on paper but where do you start? The answer: Empowerment. We start by partnering with the school and meal services provider to help show children what it means to eat healthy by putting the right choices in their hands.

Make them aware
I know that I’ve had those mornings of waking up late and rushing around, hurrying my children to the bus stop with a Pop-Tart.  We asked ourselves: Do students and parents even know that breakfast is available at school? Colorful signs that depicted healthy options were put up at the parent drop off loop to inform families about school breakfast.

Make it fun
During our Fall Festival Celebration we had an apple tasting contest.  It was our chance to highlight the health benefits of apples while having a fun learning experience. Students were given samples of three types of apples: Gala, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious. Student were then asked to choose which apple they liked best by placing representative felt apple on the board.  The apple tasting continued in the lunchroom for the younger grades with Golden Delicious edging out the others by a slim margin!

Give them the tools
We are fortunate to have a schoolyard garden.  Classes are held outside in warmer weather and students of all grade levels are an integral part of planting, harvesting and eventually eating what grows in the garden.  In September, our PTA planted various types of lettuce with the plan to have a “Top Chef Jr.” type of salad making competition using other fruits & vegetables of the season.  The winning salad would be featured on the school menu for that month.  We even used the lettuce for salads at our December ACE & PTA Family Night “Meatballs & Math.”

Empower them
What better way to highlight our school’s breakfast and lunch options than to have students share updates with each other. Each morning the Mullica Morning Howl – student led video announcements – were shown to the entire student body at Mullica Township School. During this time, students were able to speak about what breakfast and lunch options were available each day.

Jessica Carroll is a parent of two boys and PTA president of Mullica Township School in Elwood, New Jersey. 

How Do They Do It?

(Sponsored Post)

One hardworking local PTA meets the wide-ranging needs of 1,800 K-8 students and their families spread across four grade level centers.

Kim Mayton, a mom to seven-year-old twins, has a familiar story about how she ended up in a PTA leadership role. “When my kids were entering pre-K, the teacher told us parents that the class needed a Room Mom. I was interested in getting involved, but also intimidated. You couldn’t volunteer as a Room Mom unless you first joined the PTA. That made me pause. I had certain stereotypes in my head about the PTA and I definitely hesitated. But I wanted to help my kids transition well into school, so I went ahead and joined.” Kim laughs as she recalls, “It kind of snowballed from there.”

Kim now serves as the vice president of fundraising, co-chair of hospitality and chair of the school supply committee at Homewood PTA. Located 25 miles south of Chicago in the village of Homewood, Ill., this one hardworking PTA supports 1,800 K-8 students and their families spread across four grade level centers. “It definitely can be a challenge to have one PTA spanning multiple campuses,” remarks Kim. “We probably don’t run exactly like a traditional elementary school PTA but I’m betting we are more alike than different.”

Homewood PTA currently has their dues set at $10. With a little over 600 paid members and a typical annual operating budget of approximately $40,000, successful fundraisers are critical to ensuring they have adequate resources to deliver the depth and breadth of programs their PTA has become known for. “We simply cannot afford to have unsuccessful or underperforming fundraisers,” says Homewood PTA president Ann-Marie Webster. “We have to get this right to hit our budget. We carefully consider which fundraisers will yield the best results while not being a burden to our volunteers and families.”

So, that prompts the burning question: Which fundraisers does Homewood PTA choose?

A member of the Homewood PTA board was a longtime Schwan’s Home Service customer and advocated for the group to consider the Schwan’s Caresprogram (the charitable fundraising platform within Schwan’s Home Service, Inc.). When Homewood PTA discovered that Schwan’s Home Service delivers right to individual customers’ doors, instead of requiring a scheduled pick-up by families or requiring the PTA to accept and manage inventory for distribution, “We were thrilled!” says Kim.

Homewood PTA launched their first Schwan’s Cares campaign this school year. In addition to all the “usual” promotions, such as featuring the campaign on the PTA’s website, Facebook and sending home printed materials to families, they recognized that “tasting how great the food is would probably lead a lot more people to buy it.” So the PTA used a small amount of funds to purchase a selection of Schwan’s® foods and encouraged tastings at two PTA general meetings. Kim notes, “I highly recommend offering samples for any food-based fundraiser based on this experience – even if you have to buy the sample food out of PTA funds. It really helped people decide what to order!”

The PTA took some additional steps to promote the fundraiser, including:

  • Passing out Schwan’s® catalogs (tagged with a sticker for the Homewood PTA fundraiser) at local libraries and senior centers, after receiving permission to do so at those locations
  • Collaborated with the secretaries at the four campuses to compose and send an e-blast to all families about the campaign
  • Making sure that fliers and catalogs are featured at any school events during the campaign

Ann-Marie cautions that the relationship with Schwan’s Home Service is new and they don’t yet have a full grasp on how profitable these campaigns will be, but she is optimistic based on how things are going. “Have you had Schwan’s® ice cream? It’s amazing. If people just order lots of that, we’re going to do fine.”

Advice for Fellow PTA Leaders

Given Homewood PTA’s success over the years, what advice does Kim and Ann-Marie have for other local PTAs?

Ann-Marie has plenty of suggestions. To start: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help. One or two people cannot run a PTA! If people indicate a willingness to serve in some way, actually ask them to serve! Delegate!” In addition, she suggests:

  • Homewood PTA prioritized having a modern website for their PTA and they keep it current so members will want to check it frequently and rely on it for information.
  • Use all forms of communication. Paper is fine, such as the typical PTA newsletter that goes home in the backpacks. But also use social media. Find parents who are really good at those and ask them to take responsibility for updating. Homewood PTA values social media because “it creates two-way dialogue.”
  • Show appreciation constantly to your volunteers, administrators and teachers. Homewood PTA has a strong bond with their campus principals and “they are amazing allies. They promote the value of PTA at all opportunities. They encourage all the teachers to join PTA and always are supporting us.”
  • Always talk about and “promote” what PTA is doing to support the students. “When individuals know all the things that PTA has been doing to benefit their kids and the community, they will pay dues and maybe even donate more than the dues.”

For more info about the fundraising opportunities and discounts available to schools and PTA members through the Schwan’s Cares™ program, visit PTA.org/Benefits.


 

Kris Carey Prevatte is the Associate Director of Corporate Alliances for National PTA and a former local PTA president in Maryland.

Schwan’s Home Service, Inc. is a financial sponsor of National PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

Five Tips for Healthy Food without the Fight

March is National Nutrition Month®, launched by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and a perfect time to refresh (and brighten up!) your family’s go-to meals.

MyPlate, which is the newest version of the “food pyramid,” helps us visualize what a balanced meal should be: full of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low fat dairy. But many adults and children don’t eat this way – we eat too many refined grains, and not enough colorful fruits and veggies.

Photo credit: Chartwells – Kids cooking and measuring ingredients, Clintondale, MI

Photo credit: Chartwells – Kids cooking and measuring ingredients, Clintondale, MI

It can be tough introducing new foods to our families, especially kids, from taking the time to find and prepare new recipes to making sure everyone eats them. Meals can sometimes feel like a fight between serving the meals we know our kids need, and just preparing the food our kids want. Here are some tips you might find useful for navigating mealtime:

  1. Photo credit: Chartwells – Garden Wilton, CT

    Photo credit: Chartwells – Garden Wilton, CT

    Make It a Team Effort – Involve everyone in the shopping and preparation effort – they’ll be more open to trying new foods this way. Have your kids pick out new vegetables at the supermarket to try at home, recruit them to wash fresh produce, tear apart lettuce leaves, and measure ingredients.

  2. Naming Fun – In our café’s, we’ve found that giving foods fun and enticing names can increase the number of students who choose and eat that food. If you plan out your family’s meals for the week, post a menu on the fridge and use names like “X-Ray Vision Carrots,” or “Crazy Crunchy Kale.”
  3. Photo credit: Chartwells – Chef Table Student Feedback, Ann Arbor, MI

    Photo credit: Chartwells – Chef Table Student Feedback, Ann Arbor MI

    Try It Tuesday – It may take a few times of “trying” before you or your kids begin to really like a particular food. In our districts, we host chef tables in the café to expose students to new recipes before they’re served. Consider sampling a new vegetable dish each week (make only a few servings) and suggest everyone take a bite. Don’t push too hard – it’s OK if the answer is no. Try vegetables in different forms, and keep trying them – this one requires some real patience!

  4. Grow a Healthy Appetite – There’s nothing better than eating food you’ve grown yourself. Start a small windowsill herb garden, convert a corner of your yard, or buy a plot in a community garden – as an added bonus, gardening is great physical activity!
  5. The Power of Choice – We’ve worked with researchers at Cornell University and found that introducing a greater variety of fruits and vegetables to kids more frequently, while still giving them the ability to choose what they take and when, can increase their chances of eating these healthier offerings.
Photo credit: Chartwells - Salad bar day, Grand Blank, MI

Photo credit: Chartwells – Salad bar day, Grand Blank, MI

We’ve used the above in our own cafés to encourage healthy eating habits, and I hope you’ll try them at home with your family too!


Whitney Bateson, RD, is the Director of Nutrition and Wellness for Chartwells School Dining Services. Chartwells provides meals to almost 4,000 schools nationwide. Learn more at ChartwellsSchools.com.

Chartwells School Dining Services has a financial interest in National PTA, and has been invited to submit a blog post as part of their engagement with PTA. National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product, or service, and no endorsement is implied by this content.

Slide image photo credit: Chartwells – Girl Scouts making meatballs, Forest Hills, MI