Parents’ Voice is an online network of parents who are interested in improving the food and activity environments of Australian children. Formerly known as The Parents’ Jury, Parents’ Voice was formed in 2004 and now represents thousands of Australian parents.
Rachel wanted to introduce a healthy food policy for her twins' primary school canteen after she noticed that it was ‘kind of average' and left a lot of room for improvement. She started out by writing letters to the school council with her ideas, but it was only during a conversation with the school's principal that she was advised to actually sit on the school council to get the issues on the school's agenda. Rachel knew that she would not get very far without the support of the wider school community, so she and the school council surveyed school parents on what they saw as important for food in schools. What came out of that was a desire for a focus on health and environmental sustainability. Rachel and the school council then began researching existing school food policies and related programs in other schools to shape theirs. The policy went back and forth many times for review between the council, parents and staff before receiving the final seal of approval. Rachel has learned that nothing is going to happen overnight, and if you want to improve a problem, you must be willing to get involved with the solutions.
Kate's son's kindergarten runs up to eight fundraisers per year, so it was important to Kate that they didn't rely on convenient chocolate drives to make money. Kate decided that if she wanted to see change she had to make it happen from within. She joined the parent-run fundraising committee which unanimously decided they should seek profitable alternatives. Together they sourced local businesses, including working with a local bakery to provide for their annual Hot Cross Bun drive, instead of ordering via a big franchise bakery. Kate is an advocate for using local business where possible, as it gives greater flexibility when negotiating bulk orders and prices. She says while they sold fewer hot cross buns in the first year, they actually made a larger profit. The dedication and commitment of the committee has seen a cultural shift within the kindergarten.
Kathryn is a Sydney mother of two. A few years ago, the staff at her daughter's day care centre were fed up with the unhealthy contents of some of the children's lunchboxes. As well as the obvious health consequences, the sugary treats led to disruptive behaviour and ‘lunchbox envy'. Knowing that Kathryn has a nutrition background, the centre manager enlisted her help to develop some healthy eating guidelines to advise parents on suitable lunchbox foods. Much like the traffic light system we see in Australian schools, they called their guidelines ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly' which encouraged parents to pack as many of the ‘good' (green) foods as possible, and provided advice on the ‘bad' (occasional) foods. ‘Ugly (red) foods such as soft drink, crisps and confectionery were banned. The new policy was communicated to parents via the newsletter and welcome kits, and was well received. Kathryn's next goal is to work with the parent and teacher committee at her daughter's primary school to introduce mandatory morning fruit and water breaks in the classroom.