Parent Activist Marlene Schwartz

Parent Activist Marlene Schwartz

Tue 31 May 2011

Story by The Food Revolution Team

When Marlene’s children first started school in Guilford School District, potato chips and ice cream were sold at lunchtime as fundraisers. Marlene noticed that kids would buy these snacks and then not eat their lunch, so she decided to join a nutrition committee at their school and armed with new research on childhood eating behavior in school, they recommended a district-wide stop to selling ‘competitive foods’ in elementary schools.

Classroom celebrations like birthdays can be tricky and sometimes undermine parents’ good nutrition at home. Marlene noticed that sometimes other parents and teachers can ‘miss the big picture’; while parents may be trying to make changes to the food they serve at home, when they send their kids to school other parents can just walk into the classroom and hand them a cupcake for celebration.

Whilst some may think ‘it’s only one cupcake’, there are many birthdays each year along with holidays and outside school parties! Luckily, as Marlene recognised, there are many healthier alternatives.

Most people agreed with Marlene that kids shouldn’t be put in the position of choosing between their lunch and empty calories from such snacks. To Marlene’s surprise, the district was ready to make this change and with a concentration on fun activities and games for school celebrations, the kids did not miss the sweets!

“My children go to Guilford schools where there is no food at parties, instead they have birthday games. With a little creativity, it’s easy to make a child feel special”.

Marlene is not only an active mom who sits on her kid’s nutrition committee at school, but she is also the deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, which conducted a study in Connecticut schools with the Department of Education, showing that when kids are given alternatives to junk food at school, they eat less junk.

Marlene’s research and community service also address how home environments, school landscapes, neighborhoods, and the media shape the eating attitudes and behaviors of children.

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