100 Years of Advocating for Healthy Kids

Weant_Marianne_smallMarianne Weant
Director of Health Programs, North Carolina PTA

When we talked about featuring our advocacy priorities, this was the week I was looking forward to. When we’re talking about the health of children and advocacy, we’re talking about our shared history and we’ve come a long way.

The Past
PTA in North Carolina is nearly 100 years old, and I marvel at what we—what you—have accomplished in those years. 100 years ago, children often didn’t go to school. Children worked. They were breadwinners in their homes and workers in dangerous places in their communities. The earliest vaccinations were in their infancies. School meal programs were just being developed in urban areas in the north. When children were in school, they were in racially segregated schools. When I think about what moms faced on behalf of their child and every child just 100 years ago, I think of how far we’ve come together.

The Present
Today, we’d all agree that in so many ways, our children are safer and healthier. They’re in schools instead of in mills. But we still have a long way to go. We have new threats to our kids. Instead of adolescents in mills, we have adolescents struggling with technology and bullying. Substance abuse. Lack of physical activity and obesity. And still a full quarter of our children in North Carolina are food insecure. We still have a long way to go together.

And then I think about you. In the 6 years I’ve worked with PTAs in North Carolina, I’ve seen you start food pantries and stuff backpacks with food for hungry kids in your community. You’ve called me to talk about your dreams of a new playground and to ask if I had heard of anyone who provides rent assistance so just one child in your school doesn’t become homeless. I’ve watched you plant gardens and orchards to offer fresh fruits and vegetables to children in your town. I’ve seen you challenge what it means to be a PTA member in 2016 by rejecting candy and cookie sales and embracing using our voice on behalf of every child. You’ve shown me the power of our mission and what every child means to you.

The Future
Sometimes in the day-to-day business of supporting children in your school, it’s easy to forget who we are and how far we’ve come together. Remember, YOU are the ones who have made this happen.  YOU are going to be what it takes to sustain change.  Every one of YOUR voices speaks loudly. Think about what YOU can do every day that goes towards achieving these goals in EVERY child and in EVERY classroom.

Sometimes when we look around at everything we still need to do, we forget that 135,000 of us are walking this road together at more than 960 schools. Let’s keep going–2.2 million children depend on us.