Six years ago, HSC and a group of parents from Chicago’s Latino and African-American communities founded Parents United for Healthy Schools/Padres Unidos para Escuelas Saludables, a coalition that brings together parents, educators and community leaders out of concern for health disparities and the skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity that children in Chicago’s communities face.
In the years since then, hundreds of parents have made a difference for children’s health by becoming leaders in the effort to create healthy school environments. Thousands more have lent their support by signing petitions, attending meetings and speaking up for school wellness. Now, Parents United is garnering national recognition for its role in transforming food and fitness in Chicago’s schools.
Before school food and fitness were part of the national dialogue and before childhood obesity came into focus for many school leaders, parents engaged friends and neighbors in school wellness by sharing information about health disparities and talking about wellness from a social justice perspective. Parents successfully advocated for a local school wellness policy that created a role for parent involvement in school-based wellness teams in Chicago. Through these wellness teams, parents have led health-promoting change at more than 50 schools, from creating after-school soccer and aerobics clubs to instituting healthy snack policies, bringing back recess and more.
At the same time, parents have been active speaking up for change at the district level. Parent leaders have played a powerful role in successful district-level advocacy for a new school food program, a district-wide breakfast in the classroom program and the recent decision to bring back recess to all Chicago elementary schools.
Parents present petitions in support of recess at a school board meeting
This summer, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation recognized Parents United for Healthy Schools at its national Food & Community Conference.
“When it comes to education and healthy school environments, parents voices matter,” said Sterling K. Speirn, President and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “What’s happening with these parents and in Chicago is a model for change across the country.”
Parents United was recognized this summer by local leaders as well. Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle co-sponsored a resolution honoring Parents United. When they presented the resolution, the board moved to have all members unanimously co-sponsor the resolution in an even stronger show of appreciation for parents’ work.
This week, we will share highlights from these tremendous recognitions, spotlights on parent leaders, reflections from the coalition’s founders and a look at what’s ahead for Parents United for Healthy Schools.