SUBMITTED By LAURA CABE
Students at 143 North Carolina elementary schoolswill enjoy more fresh fruit and vegetables during the school day this year thanks to a $4 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grant will be used by schools’ staff to promote healthier food choices through the purchase of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as daily snacks for students and by helping teachers incorporate nutrition education in lesson plans. Operating through the Child Nutrition Program, the Cherokee Elementary school will begin the program on Monday, Aug. 27.
This is the ninth consecutive year North Carolina has participated in the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program to help elementary schools serve a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to students. Previous program participants provided fruit trays or baskets inside classrooms, set up kiosks in school hallways and used other innovative approaches to give students the opportunity to grab fresh fruit or vegetable snacks during the school day.
“Childhood obesity is a significant concern not only in North Carolina, but across the country,” said State Superintendent June Atkinson. “Schools can and should plan an important role in helping students stick to a well-balanced diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables. Students who learn this important lesson will reap the rewards far beyond the classroom.”
Schools participating in the program also will boost efforts in nutrition education so students will learn how fresh fruits and vegetables are a critical part of a healthy diet and can help prevent obesity.
“It is essential for students to develop healthy snacking habits that incorporate all the senses- sight, touch, smell sound and taste,” said NCDPI Child Nutrition Services Director Lynn Harvey. “School provides students with an optimum environment to learn and practice these skills on a daily basis.”
The NCDPI’s Child Nutrition Services Section is partnering with the NC Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health and the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services to implement the program in the 2012-2013 school year.
Laura is the Child Nutrition Director for Cherokee Central Schools