Kent (WA) Schools is participating in the USDA's Fresh Produce Pilot Program through its Neely-O'Brien Elementary School location in addition to its experiment with outsourcing excess production capacity (see main story on this page). The district has contracted with a local apple grower to produce sliced apple products as well as to source other types of fruit for use as snacks.
"We've found that children are more apt to eat them during the morning as a snack rather than as part of the midday meal," says Kent District FSD Dan Johnson. "As a result, we give out some 400 portions daily to the 625 students at the school. That is a huge increase from any previous levels of participation with fresh fruits."
Johnson says he is working with the grower/packer to add other, more exotic choices like starfruit fruit, "to introduce these products kids who may not otherwise have ever seen them," Johnson says.
Fresh vegetables, meanwhile, are made part of the lunch. Celery sticks with a peanut butter dip are particular favorites, says Johnson.
The fresh produce pilot program is designed to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables among schoolchildren as part of its strategy to encourage more healthful eating habits.