Schools increase focus on fresh produce - The Packer

Schools increase focus on fresh produce

08/30/2012 03:49:00 PM
Tom Karst

Two weeks into the school year, only one child resisted taking the required half-cup of fruit or vegetables, said Brenda Robinson, director of foodservice for Bakersfield City School, a K-8 school district in Bakersfield, Calif.

“Out of 28,000 children, that is a pretty good average,” she said.

Eleven Bakersfield elementary schools have participated in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides nutrition lessons and fresh fruits and vegetables in classrooms three days a week.

That makes students more familiar with fresh produce items in school lunches, Robinson said.

While it is too early to tell how much more fruits and vegetables students are consuming, schools are going to be serving more produce than they have in the past, said Charles Rathbun, director of food and nutrition for Blue Valley School District, Overland Park, Kan.

Students are required to take either a half a cup of fruit or vegetables every school lunch. For the Blue Valley district, he said students can take as much fruits and vegetables they want at the “offer bar.”

Rathbun said his biggest concern is that the fresh produce is consumed.

“We’re requiring them to have this and we’re just hoping it ends up in their stomachs and not discarded,” he said. “That’s our biggest fear.”

fresh produce on blue valley school salad barWith the new nutrition guidelines emphasizing dark green vegetables, Paul Lieb, president of Foster-Caviness Co. Inc., Colfax, N.C., said many schools are moving from iceberg lettuce to romaine lettuce. The produce distributor delivers fruits and vegetables to about 900 schools in North Carolina.

Lieb said the switch from iceberg to romaine could create a romaine shortage, Lieb said.

Child nutrition departments are embracing new ideas to help educate children about fruits and vegetables.

“We’re trying lots of different fruits and vegetables and trying some things we haven’t done before,” said Peggy Lawrence, director of school nutrition for Rockdale County Public Schools, Conyers, Ga.

She said the 19-school, 16,000-student district began its year July 30.

Red and orange fresh pepper strips, grape tomatoes, honeydews, nectarines, pears, cantaloupe, watermelon, spinach salad and Caesar salad are offered by the district’s schools.

Lawrence said that students have been positive about the new menu standards.

“I have been here for 14 years, and I’ve heard more positive comments in the last month than I have ever before,” she said.

Comments (5) Leave a comment 

e-Mail (required)


characters left

produce guy    
usa  |  August, 31, 2012 at 09:26 AM

Because of the program my child and the teaching staff cannot have cheese on their hamburgers! "To much protein says Mrs. Obama"! Produce is great for our kids but you cant take away items because of the calorie and protein counts! Mine comes home hungry!

Washington State  |  August, 31, 2012 at 09:49 AM

It's much more likely the concern is fat, not protein. Cheese & hamburger is a double fat whammy for the arteries, not to mention the fanny.

suzanne jones    
Iowa  |  August, 31, 2012 at 09:46 AM

I work in a high school in Altoona Iowa. I thought maybe the children would not care for the new regulations and we have issues. But much to my surprise it hasn't been an issue. We go through lettuce like crazy every day. And six forty pound boxes of bananas last only 2 days. We have cut the fat a little. We offer low fat cheese but took away

Leesburg GA  |  August, 31, 2012 at 10:36 AM

Overall this has been a positive change. Most of our high school students are loading up their trays with fruits and vegetables. The biggest complaint is from the football players who are hungry after getting 2 ounces of protein. Students are upset about not getting macaroni and cheese or cheese grits because the cheese is counted as a protein and it would take away from the already small portion of meat.

Damian Solomon    
California  |  August, 31, 2012 at 12:05 PM

Fresh fruits and veggies are much more nutrient dense than most processed foods in our schools today. Which means that fruits/veggies will make the kids feel "fuller" longer than eating a hamburger with cheese. There should be no complaints of kids being hungry after 2 hours of eating lunch. This country is experiencing an obesity pandemic, and its attributed to over eating of processed food that offers ZERO nutrion. Do you really think that one slice of a processed cheese product (that is not even really cheese at all) is making our kids healthy and feel satisfied?

Feedback Form
Leads to Insight