CALN — Imagine an elementary school child getting excited about fresh broccoli, bell pepper strips, or slices of kiwi fruit. Many students may never get the opportunity to taste fresh fruits and vegetables in their homes. This year, students in Caln Elementary School will get to snack on fresh produce three days a week in their classrooms, thanks to a federal grant program called the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
Caln joins two other Coatesville Area School District elementaries, Reeceville and Rainbow, in participating. In addition to getting to sample the food, the program provides educational information so students can learn about what they’re eating and why it’s good for their health.
“The children really love it,” says Food Services Supervisor Erin Robinson. “We do trivia quizzes with them about the samples and they are really learning that they can enjoy vegetables and fruit and not just processed foods and traditional snack foods like chips.”
Fresh fruits and vegetables are served daily in the school cafeterias, but getting children to eat them is another matter. Experts say federal programs like this help schools create healthier environments by encouraging children to eat a wider variety of healthy foods.
The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program began in 2002 and was expanded nationwide in 2008. Reeceville Elementary has participated the last three years, and Rainbow was added last year. Elementary schools participating in the program receive between $50 – $75 per year per student to purchase the samples. The program is targeted toward schools with higher ratios of students eligible for free and reduced meal prices.
“We know there’s a direct correlation between children’s diets and their health,” said Robinson. “This is a great way to have an impact. We have had several parents tell us they were surprised at what their children request at the grocery store. It’s opened a whole new world of fresh fruits and veggies for them.”