MOUNT VERNON — Dan Emmett Elementary School is keeping pupils’ energy going with fresh fruits and vegetables, thanks to a grant from the Ohio Department of Education.
Each day, students sample a different fruit or vegetable, some familiar to the students and some perhaps more exotic and less familiar. The list includes red bananas, rainbow carrots, radishes, spinach, watermelon, kiwi and snow peas.
Principal Margy Arck said the afternoon “snack” is well-received by the students, who look forward to each day’s offering.
When the News visited, jicama (pronounced hee-ka-ma) was the vegetable of the day. High in vitamins C, A and B along with calcium and phosphate, it is a crunchy root vegetable that is also known as a Mexican turnip. Students in Kristina Lanning’s third-grade class were divided as to whether or not they liked jicama, which they said tastes sort of like a raw potato.
“It’s gross,” about half the class said.
“It’s all right,” others claimed.
“It needs salt,” someone added.
The News also heard: “I never had that before,” and, “Are there any extras?” and, “Can I have another one?”
Besides teaching students that snacks don’t have to be full of starch or sugar to taste good and that healthy snacks can be tasty, the sampled foods also become part of the academic program. With fruit facts and veggie facts from web sites suggested by ODE, students learn about nutritional value and how the fruits and vegetables are grown [science], where they are grown [social studies] and chart their preferences [math].
Fifth-grader Chelsea Newton said the fresh fruits and vegetable program is “really good.”
“Now I’m not raiding the cupboards when I get home from school,” she said. “The snack fills me up.”
Chelsea also seems to like the mystery aspect of the program. Pupils are not told in advance what the treat for the day will be, although Arck will give hints throughout the day such as, “It’s blue,” or “It comes from a tropical area.”
“Yesterday I didn’t know it was raw zucchini,” Chelsea said. “That was strange. I’ve had it fried, but not raw.”
Kaid Wares, also a fifth-grader, said he liked the grapes the best so far this year. Colored cauliflower, he said, was the strangest item to date. “I hate cauliflower,” he confided, “even with ranch dressing on it.”
Parents’ reactions to the fresh fruits and vegetable program have been positive, said school secretary Cori Wilt. “They will mention it when they come in,” Wilt said, “ and one parent called to say ‘How did you ever get my kid to eat a snow pea? That’s wonderful.’”
Mount Vernon food service coordinator Nancy Bevan is instrumental in procuring the fruits and vegetables, which are prepared and placed in individual-sized plastic bags by students from the high school Transition Mission class. Dan Emmett student ambassadors then distribute the snacks to each classroom in the school.
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