Broward schools — where last year, 64 percent of
students were eligible for free or reduced-price meals
— have jumped in. “We’ve been in the forefront of developing healthy lunches,” says Moppert. “In the 1990s, the
school system eliminated fryers and started with salad
bars to get kids to eat more salads. But salad bars have
some challenges, especially in the lower grades. We realized kids did better with grab-and-go salads. In 2006 and
2007, we began offering more of those. One might be a
chef’s salad with the meat of the day. Another might be
a vegan salad with legumes like kidney or navy beans and
seed kernels. Our salad numbers went up tremendously.”
Grant grows community
Another community transforming school food is Burke
County, about 30 miles south of Augusta, Ga., largely
through the “fruit and vegetable grant.”
That’s the shorthand name used by Donna S. Martin,
director of the schools’ nutrition program, for the federal program launched in 2002 as a pilot program in four
states and the Zuni, N.M., tribal organization. Its goal:
To determine best practices for increasing fresh fruit and
vegetable consumption in schools. In 2008, the program
became permanent nationwide.
Martin says the program is one of the best she has.
For five years, she’s used it to improve her schools’ food
and to shape lives in her community. “We’re trying to
teach children how to eat healthy in the hopes they’ll go
home and teach their family how to eat healthy,” she says.
“We have a high predominance of low socioeconomic
statuses. Our students don’t have the same opportunities other children have. So we expose them to new foods
they won’t get at home.”
The grant provides about 50 cents per day per child for
fruits and vegetables. Every afternoon, schools offer all
children a fresh fruit or vegetable snack. Martin has served
everything from pomegranate and jicama to sugar snap
peas, star fruit and mangoes.
“Our children get so excited,” she says. “When they walk
in the school, one of the first things they do is look at
the table to see what the fresh fruit or vegetable will be
that afternoon. We put it there in the morning, and then
during the day, we tell them where it comes from —
whether it’s grown underground, on a plant, in a bush,
or on a tree — and the nutritional value. We’re trying to
get them the basics and show we need farmers because
food doesn’t come from Walmart. We also want them to
go home and say to their parents, ‘Today, I ate a mango,
The school nutrition program is being used to shape lives in the community.
Photo courtesy of National Farm to School Network
(Left) Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie shows the healthy food options to a student on the first day of school.
Photo courtesy of Broward County Public Schools