PEARCY — Lake Hamilton Elementary School was recently awarded a $32,779.50 grant for a Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program that will provide students with a healthy classroom snack in the afternoons.
Brian Bridges, Lake Hamilton director of communications and public relations, said the district applied for the grant last year and was very excited to be selected to participate in the program.
“What this does is it allows our students to be introduced and to receive a fresh fruit and vegetable snack two times a week,” he said. “So we’re going to be doing it on Thursdays and Fridays here at the elementary school for our second- and third-grade students. And the great thing about it is not only are the students going to be receiving a fresh fruit and vegetable snack, but it also includes their teacher as well so that the teachers get to enjoy that snack with the students. It’s just a way to introduce more fresh fruits and vegetables to our students.”
The grant from the federally assisted program, which covers the 2022-23 school year, will provide new and different varieties of fruits and vegetables to increase overall acceptance and consumption of healthy, unprocessed snacks among students. The program also encourages healthier school environments by promoting nutrition education.
“A lot of times when (the students) see their teacher trying something — maybe if it’s something that’s a little different or something that they’re not so much used to eating, but their teacher tries it and talks about how good it is — it’ll encourage the student to try it as well and then hopefully they can incorporate that more into their diet,” he said.
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The FFVP does not include anything that is canned or frozen; everything is fresh. Teachers receive supplementary materials they can use to teach the children about different varieties of produce they otherwise might not have had the opportunity to try.
“For example, today they’re getting strawberries and blueberries,” he said. “Fresh strawberries and blueberries. And the teachers have some materials today where they’ll be able to tell the students a little bit about the strawberries and blueberries that they’re eating, and then they’ll try them all together. It’s just a great way, like I said, to introduce some healthy alternatives into the diets of our students.”
While the Food and Nutrition Service of the US Department of Agriculture administers the FFVP at the federal level, at the state level it is administered by state agencies that operate the program through agreements with local school food authorities. Schools with the highest percentage of children certified as eligible for free and reduced-price meals are prioritized, as children from low-income families typically have less access to fresh produce on a regular basis.
Bridges noted how important it is for all of the students to be well-fed and provided healthy snacks. The district also provides free breakfast to students, while promoting free meal applications to cover lunch too. If those needs are not met, he said, it is hard for the students to learn.
“We’re thankful that we received this grant. Our goal is to apply for this grant again for the elementary school for next year, and then we’d love to add other schools within our district next year as well. success,” he said.
“The kids are excited about it, the teachers are excited about it, and it’s just going to be a great way of learning … of teaching these students about all of the various fruits and vegetables that are out there and that maybe they’ ve never heard of,” Bridges said.
“And when they see it in the cafeteria later on throughout the year, they’re not so intimidated to try it. They’ll remember, ‘Hey, we tried that snack on Friday of last week and I loved it. I can’ t wait to get some more of that. Let me have a little bit of that.”‘”