Daily PE and Nutrition Take Main Stage at 9th Annual Principals’ Breakfast

March 05, 2015

During Parents United’s 9th annual Principals’ Breakfast, parents and principals reflect and celebrate.

On February 20, 200 parents, principals and community members gathered at the Mexican Fine Arts Museum to celebrate and recognize the work parents and principals have done in the past year to support and create healthier schools. This occasion, the 9th Annual Principals’ Breakfast hosted by Parents United for Healthy Schools, serves as a way for parents, principals and community leaders to both celebrate their successes and support current initiatives.

Dr. Stephanie Whyte, the chief health officer at Chicago Public Schools (CPS), applauded the work of parents and principals working together and urged them to continue creating a healthy school culture. Dr. Whyte insisted that the district wellness policies, especially the implementation of the new PE policy, can only be actualized at the school level with teamwork.

Veteran principal Jose Luis Illanes, who is considered a pioneer for his work in piloting breakfast in the classroom as well as opening school doors to the community to host healthy cooking classes, spoke about how he’s cultivating the leadership of parents at Madero Middle School to help create a healthier environment for both students and staff. He was one of 38 principals who received awards for their outstanding involvement in the pursuit of healthier schools this past year.

Healthy Schools Campaign organized the first Principals’ Breakfast in 2007, as CPS was rolling out new wellness policies. There was no real mechanism at the time for making an announcement and informing parents about what these policies were, why they were important and what role parents could play in implementation.

Since then, the annual breakfast serves as an opportunity to introduce and reinforce strategies for making schools a healthier place. For example, a few years ago attendees of the Principals’ Breakfast championed breakfast in another venue: classrooms. By sharing their perspectives, parents were able to help principals see the importance of ensuring all kids started the school day with a healthy meal. Principals went back to their schools with the pilot program model developed by Parents United and CPS. A year later, 200 schools were running the district’s Breakfast in the Classroom program. And today it is district policy for all cps elementary schools to implement the breakfast in the classroom program.

Parents have played a major role in exchanging ideas with principals, holding the district accountable and leading the the effort to ensure evidence-based wellness policies and strategies are implemented at the school level.
Over the years, the Principals’ Breakfast has helped lay the groundwork for other important school health initiatives in Chicago, including: bringing back recess to all CPS elementary schools, creating healthier school lunch menus, and developing support for school wellness teams.

The Principals’ Breakfast has served as an important forum to reflect on the successes of the past year and gather momentum for the next. The 9th edition was no different, and we look forward to working with parents, principals and CPS officials in the coming year to implement daily PE and support good nutrition at school.