“Just one more bite.” “Don’t you want to grow up big and strong?” “A clean plate is a happy plate.” Do any of these sound familiar? These were things that I consistently heard at the dinner table with my family. I grew up with two little brothers and it always seemed like a struggle to get us kids to eat our fruits and vegetables. Every time we took a bite of our broccoli, we were wishing out loud that it was a french fry or a potato chip.
As the Farm to School Americorps member for Jefferson County, it is one of my pondering questions, how do I get students to eat more fruits and vegetables and actually enjoy them? I’ve always enjoyed a challenge. Now there are kids out there that really enjoy eating their recommended food groups, but there are some kids that are simply not a fan.
The Americorps Farm to School Program’s pursuit is to promote nutrition education, work with school gardens, and to influence a positive change in School Food Environment. Many of the different components that I focus on is nutrition lessons for elementary students, work with gardens around Jefferson County, and provide an avenue for students to try local produce within school lunch.
Finding new ways for kids to enjoy eating fruits and vegetables along with learning why it’s important to support local purchasing has been my mission and passion for the last two years. Building healthy habits at a young age is important because kids are able to adapt to these habits a little faster and they are able to carry them throughout their lifetime.
My passion comes from watching the kids light up when they try something new and really enjoy it, it’s such a wonderful thing. It’s watching the world through their eyes when they discover something new. Their eagerness to learn and keep exploring is an admirable thing. They keep me young at heart and definitely on my toes. Every kid has potential, and when they have good healthy food, they are able to unlock a world of possibilities!
I want each and every kid to have access to that. One of the projects I was working on with the Whitewater School District was providing local Wisconsin products each month to all the schools for students to try. Products ranging from yogurt to mushrooms (You’re probably wondering, mushrooms?- Yes!) We were able to set up a table in the lunchrooms with the local product, a chart for the students to vote if they liked the product or not, and stickers. Really highlighting the local product helped “sell” it. We were able to tell the students that the product is from Wisconsin and that it is fresh and delicious.
We found that by getting the students hyped about the product, they were more willing to give it a try. I also had a lot of students tell me that they know places around them that had the same products or that they even grew this in the garden at home! Keeping kids engaged with the product really helps with getting them to try it.
Being involved with the growing process has also been another way for the students to get hyped about fruits and vegetables. The school gardens that are in the area have really brought that opportunity for the students to be involved in just that. Watching the process of seed to plant to food really opens up the eyes for the kids. They are able to understand where their food comes from and the process it takes. They learn to appreciate it a little more.
This position in the community has really helped me learn a lot. Not only about how food systems work, but how food has an effect on every aspect of our lives. Food has changed my life in so many positive ways, and I want to share as much of that passion as I can with a community that I care so much about!