EAT YOUR VEGGIES: A unique initiave at Shamrock Middle School is generating profits while getting students to eat more healthful foods.
With the federal wellness mandate reaching zero hour, schools across the country are scrambling to line up programs that will promote healthy eating habits among the youngsters in their charge. In many cases, wellness programs involve putting fresh fruits and vegetables in front of kids and hoping they will take some and try them.
But at Shamrock Middle School in Decatur, GA, the youngsters need not be enticed with colorful freebies. They are actually spending their lunch money to purchase cups of cut fruits and vegetables, generally for a price of 40 cents.
The program is the inspiration of Shamrock Cafeteria Manager Judy Greenlee, says DeKalb County School Nutrition Director Joan Kidd. "Last year the state held a two-day conference for managers and administrators on how to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables in schools. The attendees were challenged to come up with a project for their schools and Judy's idea was an a la carte fruit and vegetable bar that would compete directly with vending and other a la carte selections for cash sales.
To be successful, the Dragon Garden's selection has to be appealing. It is consequently heavy on sweeter fruits, especially grapes, a particular favorite. Other selections include carrots, celery, grape/strawberry and grape/strawberry/kiwi combos, as well as non-produce selections like string cheese and raisins. More recently, Greenlee has been experimenting with more elaborate options like a black bean and corn salad and pasta salad with fresh tomatoes and olives.
Sales have been running at around 150 to 175 a day, not bad in a school with an average daily lunch participation of around 900, given all the other available options. The district is certainly impressed, says Kidd. Three system schools recently copied the program. A state grant is paying for education materials to support the healthy eating message.