Parents are Key to Healthy Schools

When we moved to the Skokie School District, just outside of Chicago, I decided to volunteer at my children’s school, John Middleton Elementary, because I know kids do better in school when their parents are involved.  My three kids, ages 4, 6 and 8, are active in swimming, Tae Kwon Do and baseball, but I know that learning to eat healthy is as important for them as being active. Kids tend to think they are like Superman, but with my family’s history of high cholesterol and heart disease, instilling healthy habits in my children has always been important to me. That’s why I chose to volunteer with school health and wellness programs.

One of my first volunteer experiences was working on our family fitness night. I worked with our PE teachers to organize the event and involve the community, too. Five different local businesses, including personal trainers, a kickboxing coach and a yoga instructor, hosted family fitness classes. We also incorporated a healthy snack component for the event, and our local grocery story provided smoothie samples.

Normally, the kids would be afraid of the green color of the smoothies, but the small samples were easy and fun for them to try. A little innovation and creativity can go a long way to getting kids excited about trying something new. Now we’re working on our HealthierUS School Challenge: Smarter Lunchrooms (HUSSC:SL) award application to receive national recognition for creating a health-promoting school. The school is getting a new gymnasium and multipurpose room to accommodate the daily PE initiative for the students. This could not have been made possible without the support of a great community, administration and our wellness committee.

It’s been over two years since that event and we have accomplished a lot since then. I became more involved with the school’s wellness committee. We applied for a Game On grant from Action for Healthy Kids, funded by ALDI, to support our physical activity and nutrition education programs.

My kids were my inspiration to get started, but they and the school community kept me motivated! The principal, Courtney Goodman, and the teachers are an integral part to the success of the school health initiatives, in which I’m involved. They are supportive, passionate and really believe in what they are doing—and it shows. If you’re interested in getting involved in school health and wellness, here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Lead by example. Parents should show their passions, be creative and have fun! Talk to your kids to see what they would like. When I planned our first family fitness night, I brought a Taekwondo instructor to teach a class, because my kids are involved in it outside of school and I knew they and their friends would enjoy it. If you make physical activity fun, kids are more likely to get excited and want to participate.
  2. Join your school’s or your PTA’s health and wellness team. If there isn’t one, start one! You can find tips and resources for creating and being a member of a successful school health team at org/Game-On.
  3. Start by talking! If there is something you want to improve at your child’s school, don’t be afraid to speak up. Talk to your school administration, teachers and other parents about your concerns and how you can problem solve together to make your school a healthier place. Enlist community members to support your team as you develop your programs. They are invaluable and can bring extra resources and hands to help you be successful.

Learn more and apply a newly released Parents for Healthy Kids grant from AFHK at Applications accepted through April 6, 2018 for the 2018-2019 school year. Questions? Email

Minal Desai is a parent from Skokie, Illinois.