Polk County elementary schools receive grant for fresh produce

Published 8:11 am Wednesday, September 7, 2011

As students at Polk Central, Sunny View and Tryon elementary schools sit down for a mid-day snack this year they’ll have the opportunity to chomp into fresh fruits and veggies.

Superintendent Bill Miller announced Aug. 31 that the three schools have been awarded grants totaling $54,000 to purchase fresh vegetables and fruits for their students through the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

Sunny View Elementary participated in the program last year, said Principal Kevin Weiss.

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“Not only did it give kids a good nutritious snack in the middle of the afternoon, three times a week, but it also opened a new variety of fruits and vegetables they had never experienced before,” Weiss said. “It got the kids excited about tasting new things.”

Some of those new things included fresh spinach, berries and Dragon fruit.

Weiss said in the past primary teachers did typically have a snack time to tide kids over with items parents sent from home. But Weiss said this program allowed teachers and the kids to try new things together.

“Then you might have kids going shopping with their parents and saying, ‘Hey, we had this at school. Can we get some for home?’” Weiss said.

He said the school also held various tasting events, with the whole school together trying new fruits or vegetables. Sunny View even hosted a few events in which parents got involved. He said teachers also incorporated nutrition education in lesson plans.

Funds from the program will benefit 170 elementary schools across North Carolina and will total $3.9 million dollars statewide.

This is the eighth consecutive year North Carolina has had the opportunity to participate in the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. This will be Polk County’s second year of participation.

“I am so pleased that more elementary schools are going to be able to participate in this program next year, particularly because these are such tough economic times for so many North Carolina citizens,” said state superintendent June Atkinson. “The importance of maintaining a healthy diet is a message our youngest students need to hear and hear often. Children who develop healthy lifestyles early on will reap benefits that extend beyond the classroom.