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Eating Together at School Builds Connections

September 22, 2015 by HealthyFamilies BC

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The bells have rung to start a new school year and kids across British Columbia have since been settling in. If you’re a parent you may be wondering how your children are adjusting to being back in class. Are they making friends? Have they signed up for any extracurricular activities? Do they feel comfortable and supported?

These are all important questions to ask because students with a sense of belonging and connectedness to their school environment are more likely to do better academically and be healthier.

Being involved in something meaningful that is linked to classroom learning helps students feel connected at school. Through these activities, students have opportunities to build positive relationships with their peers, teachers and staff, and with the community at large.

School food programs offer ways for your child to feel connected to their school. Just as eating together at home helps support healthy eating habits, exploring and enjoying food together at school does the same. Food brings people together. Family functions, get-togethers with friends and special occasions are almost always centered on food. Fostering food programs at school is an excellent way to build school connectedness while supporting healthy eating!

As a parent, you can support food programs in your child’s school by:

  1. Involving students in the breakfast, lunch or snack programs. Ordering, preparing food, serving and cleaning up are some ways students may be involved.
  2. Working with your child's school and the Parent Advisory Council (PAC) to ensure the food programs are inclusive. Low or no-cost programs, or those that are subsidized, help ALL students feel included.
  3. Asking if your child’s school is enrolled in the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program. All public and First Nations schools in BC are eligible to participate at no cost.
  4. Growing a Farm to School program. Bringing healthy, local food into schools supports hands on learning.
  5. Reinforcing classroom learning. Hot lunch and snack programs run by the Parent Advisory Councils (PAC) can reinforce healthy eating messages. For example, a ‘Harvest Soup Day’ can be used as a tool to teach children about seasonally grown vegetables.
  6. Ensuring that the food sold during hot lunch days, bake sales or sports days is healthy and follows the Guidelines for Food and Beverage Sales in BC Schools.

A few months ago, I visited a Farm to School lunch program at a local school. I witnessed the connections that flourish around food. I saw teens tearing up salad and serving soup, community volunteers and parents slicing up bread and fruit, and teachers and staff directing ‘traffic’ as students of all ages gathered together to share a meal.  Then I watched as the younger students put away tables and chairs and helped with composting, recycling and washing up. You could practically taste the positive vibes in this school that day…and you could certainly HEAR the joy! The principal reflected that on the days when food comes into the school through a lunch or snack program, there is a notable change in the energy and attitudes of the students. 

School connectedness is about creating an environment where everyone feels safe, seen, heard, supported, significant, and cared for. Food and nutrition programs help create a vibrant school community that supports the health and well-being of BC students.

Author's Bio: Today’s blog is written by Brenda Kent. Brenda supports school healthy eating policy and programs in her role at the Ministry of Health as the Manager of Healthy Eating in Schools. When she is not at work you will find her with her family, in the garden or feeding the chickens on a small hobby farm in the Cowichan Valley. 

Related Blogs
Guidelines for Healthier Eating at School

Recommended Resources
Healthy Families BC: Creating Healthy Schools 
Healthy Schools BC: Healthy Eating
Healthy Schools BC: School Connectedness  
Healthy Schools BC: Healthy Eating Action Guide
School Connectedness Action Guide 
BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program
Farm to School BC
Better Together
Healthy Eating at School: Research 

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