Encouraging Kids To Eat Fruit And VegetablesMon 10 Sep 2012
Story by Vanessa Bronder Alward
Parent volunteers help elementary school students eat more fruit and vegetables.
Our school year just began the other day and I have decided to try something different to help our elementary school students eat more fruits and vegetables. At the last school year's PTA meeting I had been given the idea to get some parent volunteers to come in to help the first graders get through the lunch lines on those first few days of school.
Although they'd had a run-through of what to do and what to expect at the end of their Kindergarten year, it can be overwhelming for the little ones when returning after their long summer break and starting as first graders. I therefore decided to use this opportunity with parent volunteers to do a little enticing when it came to the fruits and vegetables.
Unfortunately our school lunch provider doesn't automatically give the kids fruit and vegetables, they usually just offer them. And not only are they just offered, they are in small plastic containers (except a couple of whole apples, oranges or bananas) that are set in a bin the kids have to reach in to get which is especially difficult for the smaller ones.
So, I organized my parent volunteers to gently encourage all the kids (grades 1 through 4) to take as many of the small containers of fruit and vegetables as they'd like to. By telling them what's in them and by saying, "which one would you like sweet red peppers or coleslaw... or both?" instead of just saying "would you like some vegetables?" And if they refused, to try letting them know that they needed their vegetables and fruits for a well-rounded meal, to be strong, to be smart, and to be healthy.
Learning To Like Something New
Interestingly I found that the lunch ladies hadn't planned on the kids taking so many of these containers of vegetables and fruits as we ran out during service for each grade every time (they had more prepared but in the walk-in inside the kitchen). In the past the kids didn't feel compelled to take the fruit and vegetables as the lunch ladies would sometimes suggest them, but were often too busy serving the next child in line to successfully get the kids to take them.
Now, there are some kids who always take the vegetables and/or fruits and there are some kids who rarely or never take them. I had a few success stories that I was so proud of. One boy wasn't taking vegetables (the aforementioned peppers or coleslaw) and I asked him if he'd ever tried sweet red peppers. He said he'd never had them before and thought they tasted like tomatoes. I replied that no and that they were crunchy and sweet, that he didn't need to eat them all but just try one and he might actually like them. He took them and when I checked up on him later he said he liked them. I was really proud of him for trying.
I think I might also arrange volunteers at random times during the school year to keep up the progress we’ve made so far. I'm fine being a fruit and vegetable pusher and glad I have so much support from the school and other parents.
About the author: The work-from-home mother of three boys, 10 and under, and married to a chef, Vanessa Bronder Alward realized that her kids seemed the anomaly because they ate many vegetables and large varieties of foods. Follow her family’s journey and get tips at www.mykidsreallyeatthis.com.
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