When it comes to healthier schools, LiveWell Moms do know best.

This was evident April 18 during the first LiveWell Moms in-person event in partnership with Colorado Action for Healthy Kids. More than 40 moms from across the Front Range gathered at the Children’s Museum of Denver for a Lunch and Learn on "Making Healthy Changes at School."

Attendees and a group of panelists shared stories from the trenches: from Nicole Croy of Westminster who went from health-minded outsider of her PTA group to incoming president to Allison Howe of Ft. Morgan who had her school rethink allowing one child to pick the color of milk that all kids should drink that day. (No surprise, sugary chocolate milk is the favorite.)

Small steps for enormous change

Fortunately, moms can lead small changes in schools that can have a much larger impact. Panelist Francine Loomiller of Centennial started a low-effort school garden that doesn’t involve digging up large amounts of earth, but instead uses pizza boxes collected by the school kids. The garden teaches students how to compost with worms, how to plant and harvest vegetables. During one lesson, the kids all participated in making a salad and dressing and"there wasn't one kid who didn’t love that salad," she said.

LiveWell Moms & Colorado Action for Healthy Kids panelists chat about healthy schools

Loomiller made it possible through partnerships. "You'd be surprised who comes to partner with you," she said, suggesting other moms write-up their event or project in a local community newsletter. In her case, Denver-based breakfast restaurant Snooze Eatery helped to make the garden a reality.

And panelist Cara Marshall of Colorado Springs is jokingly "more popular than my three kids combined" at school for her hip hop dance after-school class and healthy lunches. She frequently has lunch at school with her kids and notes that all the other kids who also have healthy lunches want to sit by her.

How can other moms get involved in small ways to make a big difference?

Here are six ideas shared by participants:

  • Don’t assume children won’t eat fruits and vegetables. This stereotype was broken by nearly every story the women shared. Morale of the day: If you plant it, they will eat it.
  • Volunteer to teach a class or lead a healthy activity after school.
  • Be the role model at your school and buddy up with teachers who feel the same about health and wellness as you do. Moms' efforts go a long way when those at the school support healthy eating and physical activity.
  • Teachers and principals are busy. Bring a collective voice for change, rather than just your own, for a greater chance of being heard. And volunteer to lead the healthy project to completion.
  • Work with schools to diversify lunch menus. One mom shared that healthy ethnic school lunches are now served one day a week in her child’s school where the Caucasian population is less than 10 percent. Kids become more engaged in eating healthier when the food is interesting.
  • Apply for a grant to give blah cafeterias a colorful makeover like Nicole Croy did. The school even brought in an old restaurant “VIP” booth. Each day, the elementary school child with the healthiest lunch gets to eat in the booth with friends.

And, finally, sign up to become a LiveWell Mom if you haven’t already. We'd love to have you join our growing network of moms committed to making their families, kids’ schools and communities even healthier.