Elementary schools in McLean County will see fresh fruit and vegetable carts in their hallways at the start of the school year.
A grant from the USDA’s Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program encourages students to try new foods in an effort to fight childhood obesity by introducing elementary school students to a variety of products they don’t would perhaps not have the opportunity to taste otherwise.
McLean County Public Schools Food Services Director Melody Chelstrom said the products will be served outside of the breakfast and lunch programs.
“Grant funds cannot be used for national school breakfast or lunch programs,” she said. “We requested to be able to purchase carts for all elementary schools to place in different areas of the school.”
Food Services will purchase ready-to-eat items to place in the cart to be accessible to children throughout the school day, such as apples, oranges, bananas, diced peppers, cut broccoli and chunks of chicken. ‘pineapple.
Products can be purchased from local farmers.
“We’re working on finding more community supporters,” Chelstrom said. “I’m using a local farmer to buy lettuce for lunches and working on getting contracts to buy other items.”
Chelstrom said the grant requires farmers to be members of Kentucky Proud to purchase food for the carts. Produce from farmers in surrounding counties can also be used with this grant.
This is the first time McLean County schools have received the grant, but Chelstrom said she has applied for it twice before.
“The grant is only available for elementary schools and you qualify based on the number of free and reduced meals, which must be 50% or more,” she said.
Schools will receive between $50 and $75 per student, with the maximum amount for all schools combined being $46,575.
“I suspect we were selected this year because the potential to impact all students through multiple carts is of greater significance than the idea presented in my previous application,” Chelstrom said.
Chelstrom said increased access, combined with reduced pressure on parents and families to provide fresh produce, could be a game-changer for the district.
Schools should start seeing the carts the first week of school. The grant is a 10 month program and the minimum requirement for participation is to provide fresh produce two days a week.
“The entire district is thrilled to see this program implemented,” Chelstrom said. “I hope it will increase fruit and vegetable consumption, help families offset the cost of daily snacks, and make a difference in children’s diets to impact their current and future health.”
Chelstrom said they will also offer nutrition education and hope to provide it through coloring pages, worksheets and learning activities.