Untitled 1 Real Food for Kids - Montgomery, LLC
 
 

Starting a Wellness Committee
Getting a Salad Bar for Your School
Changing Breakfast Options
Changing A La Carte Options

Starting a Wellness Committee

Wellness Committees are generally formed via the PTA. In order to form a committee, ideally you need to find a leader and a couple of interested parents. RFKM can send you a list of parents from your school to help recruit committee members. Once you have this, you can approach your PTA about starting a committee. They will typically vote on starting the committee at a meeting. If you would like RFKM to come present at a PTA meeting prior to making this request, you can request that by emailing us at realfoodmcps@gmail.com. If your committee is approved, you will need to complete a work plan for the PTA. This will contain the name of the committee, the chair and member names, goals, potential activities for the year, supplies needed, and any budget request. It will then be up to you to convene your committee, refine your goals, and get to work.

Here are some examples of activities of other wellness committees started by RFKM members:

• At Bradley Hills ES and Takoma Park ES, the wellness committees created a school food survey, reviewed it with the principal, then surveyed parents via the school listserv.

• At Bradley Hills ES, after getting the results of the survey, wellness committee leaders arranged a meeting with the Division of Food and Nutrition Services (DFNS) and the principal to go over the results and asked for removal of a la carte items that 50% or more of parents did not want served and also asked for a salad bar. As a result of this meeting, DFNS installed a salad bar (directly into the existing serving line but only opened originally to 4th and 5th graders) and limited a la carte choices to the items selected identified as acceptable to the majority of parents.

• Rock Creek Forest ES’s Wellness Committee advocated for a water bottle filling station in their new school (which was being rebuilt) and got MCPS to agree to install one in the cafeteria.

Getting a Salad Bar for Your School

According to MCPS’ Division of Food and Nutrition Services, there is salad bar equipment available at the central facility in MCPS. All it takes to get one installed at any given school is a request by the principal. Many principals are hesitant to make this request due to concerns that it will create chaos and longer lines in the cafeteria or will require additional staff.

One of the best ways to advocate for a salad bar is to first educate parents on salad bars. You are free to personalize and use this article on salad bars as a submission to your PTA newsletter. Subsequently, you can run a school food survey to determine parent support for the salad bar. RFKM has sample surveys and a subscription to SurveyMonkey that you can access for this purpose. We also have a version in Spanish. Once majority support for a salad bar is established through the survey, you can request a meeting with your principal to ask for installation of a salad bar. The principal will then need to request it from the Division of Food and Nutrition Services.

We encourage you to look at the materials below and work closely with the Division of Food and Nutrition Services to make sure that the salad bar is properly implemented and marketed. A poorly stocked, publicized and marketed salad bar will likely be used by few children and may be removed or only stocked very few days of the week.

In middle and high schools in MCPS, salads from bars are typically sold by the ounce and are not included in the set price or Free and Reduced Price Meal. In elementary schools, they are either sold as part of the meal, or as a separate a la carte item by weight. 

Farmer's Market Salad Bar Program Guide - created by the Riverside United School District Nutrition Services Department and the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College

Salad Bars - Implementation guide from The Lunch Box

Let's Move: Salad Bars to Schools - Equipment Grants

Changing Breakfast Options

At 77 of the schools in MCPS, breakfast is served not only in the cafeteria but also in the classroom. This has created concern among parents whose children are not only eating two breakfasts, but a second breakfast of foods they would not serve regularly at home, like cinnamon rolls, pancakes or french toast with chocolate milk and a side of juice, that they cannot opt their child out of.

Parents at various schools have organized themselves to request whole fruit for breakfast, or the removal of undesirable breakfast items, like cinnamon rolls (so far, requests for removal of chocolate milk have not been granted). Again, the best way to initiate this process is through the formation of a wellness committee and school food surveys. However, if you would like to shortcut the process, if you have a group of parents who are concerned, they can contact the principal who can arrange a meeting between parents and the Division of Food and Nutrition Services. However, when you go this route, you will likely only get the changes that the majority of the parents who show up for the meeting want. If you want a more democratic evaluation of what the majority of parents agree on, conducting a school food survey will lead to more accurate and representative results. RFKM has templates and a SurveyMonkey account that you can access to conduct a survey.

Here are some examples of what our members at two schools have done to improve breakfast in the classroom options:

• After discovering that whole fruit was listed on the menu, but juice was always served instead, parents at Rolling Terrace ES advocated for fresh fruit to be served at breakfast. After meetings with the Division of Food and Nutrition Services, they got their request. While it is too costly for MCPS to serve 2 servings of fruit at breakfast, they are now serving one plus juice.

• After advocacy by a group of parents at Forest Knolls ES, which led to a meeting between parents and the Division of Food and Nutrition Services, MCPS removed Craisins and cinnamon rolls from breakfast in the classroom there.

Changing A La Carte Options

One of the most common complaints of parents in MCPS is the sale of a la carte items such as chips, cookies, ice cream and gummies, even at the elementary school level, that are not listed on the menus. These items can be purchased by students using their pin numbers without parent knowledge or permission. While parents do have the right to restrict their child’s account to meals only, few know about the sale of a la carte foods or take advantage of their ability to limit their children’s access to them.

The best way to improve the situation on a school by school basis is to work to limit a la carte options to healthier items. Again, the best way to initiate this process is through the formation of a wellness committee and the conducting of a school food survey. In our experience, school food surveys typically show that the majority of parents agree on the removal of the worst of the a la carte options. Subsequently, a meeting between the wellness committee leadership, the Division of Food and Nutrition Services and the school principal usually results in an improved a la carte menu, as principals have the right to remove or change a la carte options. However, if you would like to shortcut the process, if you have a group of parents who are concerned, they can contact the principal who can arrange a meeting between parents and the Division of Food and Nutrition Services to request changes. However, when you go this route, you will likely only get the changes that the majority of the parents who show up for the meeting want. If you want a more democratic evaluation of what the majority of parents agree on, conducting a school food survey will lead to more accurate and representative results. RFKM has templates and a SurveyMonkey account that you can access to conduct one.

   

"I teach high school and the students are begging for healthier choices--especially the kids who receive free and reduced meals. Their options are limited." 
- An MCPS teacher

"Please no more chicken nuggets, pizza, fries, and other junk foods. Positive peer pressure can help some kids open up to new, healthier foods. School is a good opportunity for that." 
- An RFKM supporter

"We would love our daughter to be able to eat the food in the cafeteria, but it just isn't healthy. We limit her to once a week. We should also do away with veding machines in the schools. Or have vending machines that sell things like fruit." 
- an MCPS parent

"As a teacher in MoCo public schools I see the negative effect this so called food has on students daily. many of these students count on these meals as their only food for the day, and sugar and chemicals aren't fitting for creating a positive learning environment."
- an MCPS teacher


 
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