“Friends Make the Party Fun:” Children Speak up for Wellness

April 09, 2008

Today we have a guest blog from HSC Board Member Rob Rogers. Rob is the Vice President of School Health Corporation, the nation’s leading provider of medical supplies and equipment to schools and sports teams, a family business he runs with his wife Susan. Rob and Susan’s children attend Marion Jordan school, the school featured in this blog.

What is it that motivates school leaders to adopt meaningful wellness policies?

Even before the 2006 requirement [pdf] that school districts have wellness policies in place to address nutrition education, physical education and school food, some schools were adopting policies regarding classroom snacks and food for celebrations. In some cases, the impetus came from students. 

When the principal of Marion Jordan school in Illinois received a letter signed by hundreds of students, she was determined to see change in her school.

February 22, 2005

Dear Mrs. Petersen:

We would like to see some things changed at Marion Jordan School.  We especially want to see the way parties are done changed.  Here are the reasons we want things changed.

  1. We don’t like having our friends have to leave the class when it is time for a party.  Some of the students at Marion Jordan have bad allergies and they can’t even be around some of the food that the parents bring in.  The room moms usually know about the food that can’t be brought in, but some of the other parents still send in food that the kids are allergic to.  Kids have to be careful of what is in the room instead of just having fun. 
  2. Even when the food is not in the room, the rest of the kids know who the kids are that have the allergies and they say things like “We can’t have pizza because of you.”  You and the teachers have talked to these kids and they don’t say it anymore, but the kids with the allergies still feel bad.
  3. The teachers talk to us about acceptance, compassion, and respect for other peoples differences, but doesn’t this point out their differences.  This makes them feel even more different.  We have learned that sometimes you can give up small things (sacrifice) to make things better for other people.
  4. We have kids who are gaining too much weight because we have too many treats at school and then they also go home and have snacks after school.  Teachers talk to us about healthy diets, exercise, and the food pyramid.  The food we have at parties is what we shouldn’t be eating.
  5. When we do have food in the room we just sit at our desks and eat.  That isn’t much fun.

You always say if we want things changed it is a good idea to have a few suggestions so here are our suggestions.

  1. Have games and fun things to do at parties.
  2. Ask us what we want to do at the party.
  3. Make sure ALL students can have fun and be at the party.

We want to end by saying:  We don’t need food to have fun.  Being with our friends is what makes a party fun.

There are many good reasons to enact wellness policies at school, and many good reasons to create a “culture of wellness” where children learn about the importance of healthy eating and active lifestyles. But perhaps the most important reason is also the most simple: children’s well-being.

With all the different voices calling for healthy changes at school, it’s refreshing to hear from the children whose health and quality of life are affected so directly.