In order to really live the LiveWell mission with my family and not just as part of my job at LiveWell Colorado, (disclosure: I’m the VP of Marketing & Communications), I recently started a Health & Wellness committee at my daughter’s elementary school.  I figured there was a great mix of involved, concerned parents and there were several opportunities to create a healthier school environment—cupcakes were a regular occurrence, candy was being handed out for good behavior, and sweets were abundant in birthday and other celebrations.

Even though I work for a nonprofit now, my background is in business and I’m used to taking charge of projects, making plans and getting things done that show results.  I thought it would be the same thing with this school committee. Instead, I learned that good intentions and gusto are not enough to get things done at school—it takes partnership, persistence and patience.

A great example is the recent success we had piloting a “healthy cupcake” for the 2nd grade Valentine’s Day parties. The committee recruited the cafeteria manager to make her recipe for sweet potato muffins—a favorite during the school-wide Thanksgiving feast—for the parties, with some light cream cheese frosting. The cafeteria manager agreed enthusiastically, which was essential to making this work. However, she had to go through approval from the school district nutrition director and revise the recipe to make the muffins moister. Who knew the district was so picky about taste? This was a nice surprise.

I then had to work with the school front office to set up a billing code so we could pay for the cupcakes.  At $.25 a cupcake, or about $7 a class, this was certainly cheaper than buying sugary treats at the local grocery.  Our front office manager was on board with the project, so she worked her magic to make this happen. Again, this was a critical component.

Last, we had to get approval from the teachers to serve the new cupcakes at classroom parties that were traditionally filled with cookies, frosting, and candy. Luckily, my daughter’s teacher and one other understand the value of health in the classroom and were willing to give it a try.

The result? I took a quick poll of the kids and got about 90% thumbs up from both classes. Here are a few pictures of my daughter and her friends enjoying the cupcakes.  The good news is that the only other party snacks were cheese, crackers, fruit and juice, so the parties were generally healthy and food was just one of the fun activities. The bad news was that each student’s valentine’s bag was filled with candy attached to valentine’s cards. At least they were instructed to eat the candy at home so parents could moderate their consumption.

Making change takes one step at a time. Now, I’ll see if we can expand this program and make the cupcakes available for birthday parties!  Stay tuned!