Since children tend to reach for sugary treats instead of healthier apples or carrots, the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for kids in schools helps children develop healthier habits by giving them a chance to make healthy choices
The US Department of Agriculture program has been added to more than 150 schools in New Jersey, getting children excited about healthy eating, and locally grown produce, fresh from the Garden State.
“The main goal is to improve nutrition to the children in the state,” said Lynne Richmond, public information officer for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture. If students start early, she said, they are more likely to develop healthier eating habits in the future.
The USDA has set aside more than $4 million for the program for the upcoming school year. It will provide fresh and local fruits and vegetables to students for free on a daily basis, along with supplementary nutritional education programs, where students get a hands-on education on produce — including free samples.
In Trenton, the food service company Aramark will provide fresh fruit and vegetables to participating schools. “When they’re with their parents in the produce section, they’ll pick up something new and healthy,” general manager Francisca Sohl said, expressing hope that the youngsters will reach for the bag of carrots instead of chips.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to provide more fruit and vegetables to our students,” Katie Attwood, business administrator for the Hamilton school district said.
To participate, schools must promise that the program will be publicized and available to all students, will purchase produce locally as often as possible and have at least 50 percent of their students eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch.
Additional funds were given to schools that agreed to participate in the Farm to School program, which connects local farmers to schools, promoting Jersey Fresh produce in the cafeteria.