One of the biggest challenges in getting a farm to school program started is finding others to help fly the flag. Greta Massetti and Angela Renals lead up their school’s wellness teams and farm to school projects at Evansdale Elementary School and Chesnut Charter Elementary School, both in DeKalb county. They recently gave a presentation with me at Georgia SHAPE’s Healthy Schools Summit. Here are the top 10 tips they had for getting other parents involved, so your school’s program will be a success!
1. Was it the pizza? For the Chesnut Charter Elementary School Field Day, Angela stealthily replaced cotton candy with a healthy pizza-making station with local organic toppings. They even had a farmer show up so the kids could meet him! Instead of insisting that everyone immediately adopt some strange healthy foods, the pizza was fun, delicious, and nutritious. Now everyone wants to be involved.
2. Make a personal invitation to help. Introduce yourself to everyone and tell them about the wellness or farm to school team that you’re involved with. At Angela’s school, the P.E. coach handed flyers for a parent nutrition night in the carpool line.
3. Hook parents through their passion. Angela recalled that one parent was really excited about food—now she runs their nutrition nights!
4. When it’s fun and delicious, people show up and want to be a part of it. Don’t preach and wag fingers—believe it or not, folks just don’t enjoy that!
5. Jump start programs through grant money. Georgia SHAPE Award and Whole Kids Foundation are both great starts. If you can bring money to the table, that’s one less challenge because parents, educators, and administrators are more likely to embrace a project proposal that comes with its own funding. Also, once they see the value, the school and/or PTA is more likely to sustain funding.
6. Reach parents through the students – when you educate the kids, they talk about it to their parents. Parents then want to know about recipes and where to buy all this healthy food. So have some helpful resources hands, like $20 meals that you can cook in 30 minutes.
7. Connect to what’s already happening – instead of reinventing the wheel, just tweak what’s already working. Greta’s school had a very active PTA, but didn’t necessarily focus on wellness. She gradually wove in wellness policies and activities.
8. Think about homegrown fundraisers that don’t require kids to sell junk food. Greta helped organize the Evansdale Eagle Trek Walk-a-Thon, which raised $75,000. Every penny stayed in the school and nobody had leftover popcorn or donuts.
9. Listen and survey parents. You might be surprised that other parents agree with you. Getting some accurate feedback via a tool like survey monkey will help you represent their interests better.
10. Get some press. Everyone likes positive press so make sure you dedicate the time to bring the media into all your fun events.