MADISON — About 61,000 students across the state are learning more about nutrition and good health while sampling familiar and not so familiar fruits and vegetables through a federal grant program that helps schools bring fresh produce into the classroom.
Wisconsin’s $3.2 million Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grant is supporting 169 schools in offering school day snacks to elementary students. Survey comments reinforce the importance of the program. “Kids really look forward to snack time.” “It’s amazing to see the look on the children’s faces when they realized how good these foods can be.” “Some students did not know the names or the taste of most of the snacks they received, so that was awesome to see their reactions.”
Students had their favorites, including carrots, grapes, strawberries, and sugar snap peas. They also tried less familiar foods such as jicama and beet sticks, broccoli, grapefruit, and starfruit. Because kids are already familiar with a variety of fruits and vegetables through the snack program, more of these items can be incorporated into the regular school breakfast and lunch menus. Another Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program benefit is having children bring their tasting lessons home so families can explore more fruit and vegetable options. The program also complements school garden initiatives across the state, increasing kids’ desire to taste what they grow.
“I always like visiting the food service staff at schools,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “These dedicated individuals make it their mission to serve healthy foods that nourish young bodies so kids are ready to learn. The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program helps kids understand where their food comes from, why it’s important, and to ‘give it a taste; you might like it.’ ”
The Department of Public Instruction evaluated 240 applications for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, awarding grants to two tribal schools, 20 private schools, and 147 public schools. Schools were awarded funding based on enrollment and will receive approximately $50 to $55 per student to purchase additional fresh fruits and vegetables to serve free to students outside of the National School Lunch (NSLP) and School Breakfast programs (SBP). Participating schools submit monthly claims to the DPI for reimbursement for fruits and vegetables as well as some limited non-food costs related to running the program.
Eligible schools have 50 percent or more of their students receiving subsidized school meals or an equivalent rate for Community Eligibility Program sites. School applications also included a plan for integrating the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program with other efforts to promote sound health and nutrition.
NOTE: A list of schools receiving grants through the 2017-18 Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is in the official news release.