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Grant gives students fresh fruits, veggies

by Caryn Haller
challer@recordcourier.com

Jacks Valley Elementary School first-grader Graham Miller eats his sweet potato bites on Wednesday morning at school.
Shannon Litz | The Record-Courier

Susan Kendrick’s first-grade class at Jacks Valley Elementary sat quietly on their mats Thursday morning snacking on sweet potato bites while learning all about the healthy vegetable.

Jacks Valley and Meneley elementary students have a more exotic taste now thanks to a $53,000 federal grant received by the school district.

“We suggest they try at least three bites before the make their decision on if they like it or not,” Kendrick said. “We look forward to snack day. Some kids want to take it home in their backpacks.”



The fresh fruit and vegetable program provides the students with an unusual snack twice a week.

Out of Kendrick’s 23 students, 19 of them liked the sweet potato bites as reflected in a poll taken and posted on the class’ Promethean board.



“It opens up some new experiences for the kids, and it gives us something real to collect data on,” Kendrick said. “It’s a nice community class-building thing to do.”

Week one the students had jicama and honeydew.

“Some of the teachers didn’t know what jicama was,” said Phyllis Hasner, director of student nutrition. “The honeydew was a big hit. One little boy dropped his, and was crying because we didn’t have anymore.”

Talon Coulter, 6, didn’t like the jicama, but ate all of his honeydew and sweet potato.

“I like that they are healthy and make your body strong,” he said. “And they are very tasty.”

Classmate Ayla Nelson, 6, had never tried sweet potato before Thursday.

“I like that they keep you healthy and your eyes not blurry,” Ayla said.

Jacks Valley principal Pam Gilmartin said the new foods are fun for the students.

“They loved the jicama. They had no idea what it was. It was kind of funny,” she said. “We’ve been providing our own snacks, and this was a nice addition.”

The snack provides a learning opportunity as well.

The teachers have an information sheet on each snack telling what it is and where it comes from, so the students have a better idea about what they are eating.

“We’ve been really pleased,” Gilmartin said. “We’re excited we got the grant.”

Jacks Valley and Meneley elementary schools qualified for the grant because more than 50 percent of their students receive free or reduced lunch.

“I love it because the kids are experiencing new things,” Hasner said. “And it’s a small enough quantity they can decide whether they like it or not, and not waste anything.”

Bonanza Produce coordinates which fruits and vegetable the schools receive based on price, season and availability.

“What they are trying to do is introduce different fruits and veggies to the kids,” Hasner said. “A lot of these things parents don’t buy. It’s a really nice program for the kids.”