Parent Perspective: Small Steps Help Kids Take Care of Their Bodies and the Earth

February 18, 2010

Nancy Today we have a guest blog from HSC supporter Nancy Himmelfarb, a
mother, a lawyer and an advocate for children’s health and our
environment. HSC applauds Nancy’s efforts to help green her community’s
schools, and the efforts of all parents taking steps to make wellness a
regular part of every child’s school day.

Imagine kids
learning to take care of their bodies and take care of the earth.
Imagine them continually reaffirming their commitment to healthy
living, despite the myriad of unhealthy choices in the world.

This
vision becomes a reality when parents and schools take steps, even
small ones, to change the school environment and to instill healthy
habits in kids.

At home, for example, my husband and I talk
with our seven and five year old about conserving resources and eating
mostly healthy foods to keep the earth and our bodies strong and
healthy. Our kids respond very positively – they even check food labels
for grams of sugar and are careful not to waste paper. Small steps can
make big impressions on kids.

At school, small steps make big
impressions on many kids. Kids are eager to learn and, given the
opportunity, they get excited to take care of their bodies and the
earth.

For example, students were so excited for a “Trashless
Tuesday” at South Park School in Deerfield, Illinois, that they reduced
their garbage by approximately 80 percent in a single day and lobbied
to repeat the program twice each month. Ravinia School in Highland
Park, Illinois, allows only fruits and vegetables for snack and
composts food waste for the school greenhouse. The kids do not miss the
processed foods at Ravinia, and they are proud of the school
greenhouse. Good schools create an environment that models responsible
behaviors and attitudes. The healthy school environment reinforces a
healthy home environment and can even have an impact on changing
unhealthy habits outside of school.

My goal is to help kids
begin a lifelong commitment to taking care of their bodies and the
earth. I accomplish this by working with all of the relevant
stakeholders – schools, parents, teachers, students, community
activists and city government. As Vice Chair of the Environmental
Commission for Highland Park, Illinois, I have worked with several
schools to form green teams and to identify the “small green steps”
that help their schools by helping the environment. In addition, I have
worked to spearhead broader policy changes, such as a current proposed
ban on polystyrene food ware. This proposal is perfect for
collaborating with school age kids. Several kids have stepped forward
to be environmental activists, because they have seen the pollution and
want to do something about it. The kids researched alternative
packaging materials and took the initiative to write letters to elected
officials and local vendors. Together, we are making an impact.

One small step at a time, motivated adults can engage kids, and soon
the kids lead the adults in generating new ideas to protect the health
of their bodies and the environment. 

Plus: To read more profiles of parents making a difference for healthy
schools, check out HSC's Parents United for Healthy Schools.