By ALAHANDRA JONES
Every Friday, Benton Elementary students take home the upcoming week’s snack menu as part of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which strives to expose students to more fruits and vegetables and promote healthy eating habits.
This is the second year Benton received a $14,000 grant to serve fresh fruits and vegetables to students during a designated snack time. Supervisors determine the menu and manage how the grant money will be allocated for the year. Students of every grade level from preschool to fifth grade try different fruits and vegetables from Monday to Thursday.
“I think it’s totally working,” said kitchen manager Melissa Scott. “It’s opened up the world of fruits and vegetables to students and staff.”
Every week, the students get to sample a new variety of fruits and vegetables. Familiar fruits such as apples and bananas have been served, as have more uncommon flavors like parsnips and jicama. Students are encouraged to try at least one bite before deciding a food’s fate.
The program also helps parents who cannot necessarily afford to purchase healthy snacks.
“I love them because we have low-income families, and it helps them from purchasing snacks for students,” said kindergarten teacher Kristi Schlegel. “Any parent I talk to about it is elated that we have this program.”
On April 28, Schlegel’s class tried asparagus seasoned with salt, pepper and butter. Schlegel gave each child a ration of hand sanitizer and, after the class was quiet, announced that the day’s snack would be asparagus. Students were called up by tables to receive the green, stalky vegetable, which some said they’d already tried. The class sang a snack time jingle, and most took their first bites together.
Reactions were split. Some sounds of disgust — “Gross!” “Ew!” — filled the classroom. But some students took to the vegetable and returned for seconds and even thirds.
“I wish the whole entire world was made of asparagus!” the pro-asparagus students began to chant.
“Asparagus is good,” kindergartner Amare said. “I’m going to start making some in the bathtub.”
Benton will reapply again for the grant in order to continue the program next year.
When asked if she would like to see the program return next year, Schlegel replied,”Absolutely. We’ve had it for two years. I love this program.”