A healthy increase in grant funding has allowed LCPS to expand its fresh fruit and vegetable snack program to students at two more elementary schools.
All K-5 students at Northeast and La Grange got their first taste of the program Oct. 25 when individual portions of carrots and ranch dressing arrived in their classrooms. On Tuesday, students snacked on seedless grapes and on Thursday they got bell pepper slices.
The program, which began last school year at Pink Hill and Moss Hill elementary schools, is designed to acquaint youngsters with a wider array of food and to encourage healthier eating habits.
It’s financed through a grant of $104,542 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That amount is about twice what the USDA provided a year ago to get the program off the ground in Lenoir County; consequently, about twice as many students – nearly 1,900 – are being served this school year.
“It has always been our intention to grow the program,” Child Nutrition Director Danelle Smith said. “Pink Hill and Moss Hill had such a good experience with the snacks last year that we didn’t hesitate to offer the program to two more schools.”
Her department will continue to monitor the program for logistical issues and its impact on instructional time, Smith said, but with an eye toward gradually bringing the fresh fruits and vegetables to all nine elementary schools.
“The two new elementary schools are super excited,” Smith said. “We are excited to expand.”
The fruits and vegetables are purchased through the Raleigh produce company that won the bid. The selection ranges from the usual to the exotic – from sliced apples and cucumbers to star fruit, a waxy, yellow-green fruit that originated in Sri Lanka, and kiwis, a fruit native to China that’s a great source of vitamin C.
“The hope of the program is once we expose elementary students to different fruits and vegetables, they will make healthy choices and know what those choices are when they go into middle school and high school,” Smith said.
“A lot of kids are familiar with broccoli, but they don’t know what it’s called. I think it’s important as an education piece to tell them what the different fruits and vegetables are, where they come from and how they can help your body.”