Recently, an interesting letter came across my desk. The letter was from an Ohio school nurse who wanted USDA to know that students at E. J. Brown Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio, LOVE their USDA-funded Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), now in its second year. And that makes E.J. Brown’s school nurse Virginia Noe, who wrote the letter, a huge fan of the program and its many positive effects on student eating behavior, health and learning. Noe shared her thoughts in the enthusiastic and heartfelt letter.
“The positive response of our student body, staff and parents has been overwhelming. Many tasted pears, plums, jicama and spinach for the first time. Students learned that not all apples are red!” said Virginia.
Besides expanding their healthy food options, the students researched where produce is grown and, with the help of school staff, started a school garden.
As with some other urban districts, many E. J. Brown students have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Thus, they highly value the program and are eager to see what produce is being served each day. Noe reports that students who were at first hesitant to try new varieties gradually became more adventuresome. And when their first year’s funding ended in March of last year, the students’ disappointment was “palpable.”
One parent said, “I would rather they ran out of money for field trips than the fruits and vegetables,” adding, “No more canned pineapple for us because the fresh tastes so much better.”
E.J. Brown is one of 20 schools in Dayton and 111 in the state of Ohio to receive a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grant this school year. Noe is grateful that the school received FFVP funding for a second year. She believes the FFVP is money well spent, as it positively affects the entire student body. “As our country struggles to fight childhood obesity, the impact of learning about and experiencing healthy snacks can be lifelong.” She notes that the FFVP is aligned with key national health and wellness initiatives, including Healthy People 2010/2020, school wellness mandates, and the First Lady Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! initiative.
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