During the 2016-2017 school year, 14 Trenton elementary schools participated in The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, a federally assisted program providing free fresh fruits and vegetables to students during the school day, outside of their regular meal.
“Providing fresh fruits and vegetables is one way to improve children’s overall diet and create healthier eating habits, which will benefit their present and future health,” said Denise Holguin, Director of Meal Program Growth for Aramark, the food service provider for Trenton schools. The program helps schools create healthier school environments by providing healthier food choices; expanding the variety of fruits and vegetables children experience; and increasing children’s fruit and vegetable consumption.
The program exposed school children to different types of produce like starfruit, mango and organic colorful carrots, in addition to more familiar apples, oranges and tomatoes. Some teachers developed lessons around the produce, for example, asking children to measure the apple and slice it into halves, quarters and eighths. Students also received a Smart Fact Sheet about fruits and vegetables to take home and share with their families.
This was the first year all Trenton elementary schools participated in the program. Aramark purchased the produce from local vendors and allocated and delivered it to each school. Aramark and Isles partnered on monthly vegetable tastings, discovering that children were open to trying new things. Students voted with “thumbs up” and thumbs down” stickers to share their preferences. Somewhat surprisingly, 98% wanted to try new vegetables.
“We were elated that all schools participated in the program,” Holguin said, attributing the success in part to the support and education New Jersey Partnership for Kids-Trenton provides about living a healthier life to combat childhood obesity. “Now that kids have experienced different types of fruit and vegetables, Aramark plans to diversify their school lunch menus and introduce new produce options in the next school year.”