By Guillermo Gomez
As Colorado prepares to launch a school wellness campaign, lessons from Chicago are helping to shape future strategy. Recently I was invited by the Colorado Health Foundation to speak at a parent engagement meeting with representation from statewide stakeholders. They wanted to learn how HSC and Parents United for Healthy Schools were able to bring together a cross-section of parent leadership in Chicago to advocate for healthier food and recess policy in Chicago Public Schools.
I mentioned that part of our success comes from parent investment -- that calling a meeting with parents is not necessarily working "with" parents. The commitment involves an organic learning process, leadership development, finding a common language and developing the right tools for parents to be able to speak up for social justice in their communities. Rather than just collecting parents' names, it's about motivating parent investment and action.
I also shared how we have worked on childhood obesity issues since 2004 before it became a hot-button issue. In that work, parents organized other parents from across the city; they structured wellness teams, parent summits and trainings while building a strong base of support until new school food standards and district support for recess became a reality.
Participants were excited and made a commitment to figure out their strategy for making Colorado the next place to create healthy school environments through real parent engagement.