We’ve been relishing being part of a transformation. You may have noticed–you’ve been part of it, too. It wasn’t overnight, nor is it subtle and meek. Everywhere, in the midst of chaos, of factors that could easily cause despair, community members are turning a sense of powerlessness inside out, building empowering momentum. Today, wherever you turn, individuals are teaming up for the sake of community. When something is wrong, they are increasingly reluctant to wait around for someone else to step in and fix things. They are increasingly emboldened to join hands for positive change themselves. At Rocky Mountain Elementary, the Parent Leadership Team is dedicated to being a force for health, for students and families, inside and outside of school.
Throughout this 2017-2018 academic year, LiveWell Longmont and SVVSD School Wellness have been partnering with Rocky Mountain Elementary Parent Leadership, currently consisting of eight devoted moms, to identify and address health needs in their community. The group has met once monthly, discussing food issues and concerns such as healthy food access. The majority of students at the school qualify for free and reduced lunch. Many students depend on school provisions. With the local neighborhood qualifying as a food desert, the significance of healthy options cannot be over-emphasized.
Over the months, parents and supporting team members have reached out to the community and met to identify a number of goals that represent a conglomeration of neighborhood priorities, parent group priorities, Envision Longmont, and the Longmont Sustainability plan. At school, there is dedicated momentum for increasing students’ healthy options while reducing available junk food and cutting food waste, particularly that of healthy foods. Momentum is just as driven outside of school, as well. The team has been developing strategies and plans for increasing healthy food access for the local community as a whole, building awareness through educational opportunities, and supporting sustainable agriculture.
The RME Parent Leadership Team goals are grand. As with all big ideas, there will be lots of complexities to navigate and it will take time. But there is no doubt their efforts will achieve great progress. They are already well on their way. Their commitment is heartfelt and personal, starting with turning the mirror on themselves. “If you do not love yourself you won’t be able to love others,” says one of the RME Team Leadership parents. “So, you have to start taking actions on your own nutrition first. If you start doing this, and show real facts and results to the people around you, eventually they will imitate you. They will follow you.”
Throughout this school year, Rocky Mountain Elementary has been creating a school wellness plan, supported by SVVSD School Wellness. Principal Jill Fuller has worked on policies to help cultivate a strong food culture of health. She is working on devising limits on amounts of foods brought in from outside, such as juice drinks and junk food. Teaming with SVVSD School Wellness and the parent group St. Vrain Healthy Kids, assemblies have been offered throughout the year on health-focused topics such as the dangers of sugary beverages and the importance of water. As a result, a water filling station is being installed at the school following spring break, with each student receiving a free reusable water bottle.
Last year, Rocky Mountain Elementary began marking special events, such as Halloween or Valentine’s Day, with celebratory breakfasts instead of end-of-day parties. “This change helps us to focus on the instructional day while still being festive,” Fuller says. “It also makes it a lot easier to promote healthy options. Kids bring in cultural food; we have seen pre-wrapped breakfast burritos, homemade horchata, fruits. Morning celebrations naturally reduce cookies and cupcakes.”
In addition to supporting policies, Rocky Mountain Elementary has prioritized classes and events to foster a culture of health. SVVSD Nutrition Services teamed up with Cooking Matters to provide special parent cooking classes, for example. This past February, SVVSD School Wellness provided the school with container gardens which can also be incorporated into both traditional curriculum and cooking classes. And this year, the school celebrated three Harvest Days, supported by Nutrition Services and parent group St. Vrain Healthy Kids, celebrating and exposing kids to fresh, local produce.
“[Principal Fuller] has propelled remarkable strides in being so open to building on wellness,” says SVVSD School Wellness Coordinator Sarah Harter. “Each step taken just keeps bringing on greater and greater growth.” School community efforts have exemplified true teamwork, Harter adds, stressing the significance of reaching out to community partners for shared goals. “It’s been wonderful to help facilitate, “she says. “There has been so much commitment and self-motivation from all involved. Parents self-selected priorities–there was no handing down goals. They were carefully developed.”
There is so much to be overwhelmed by in the world. There are often too many problems and worries to wrap our heads around. But teams like the RME Parent Leadership Team remind us, we can make a difference. We can’t save the world, but we can make it healthier, one bite at a time.