Kids Eat Up Healthy Snacks at Jonesboro Elementary

Kids Eat Up Healthy Snacks at Jonesboro Elementary
By:  Stephanie Byars

JONESBORO, Ill. - Sometimes kids can be picky eaters, and it can be tough to make sure they get their fruits and vegetables every day.  Jonesboro Elementary School is taking part in the USDA healthy fruit and vegetable program.  It allows all 500 students to get a healthy fruit or veggie snack every day.  And it seems the kids are eating it up!
School nurse Mary Ellen Ecker, along with 6th grade teacher Tammy Vicenzi got a $35,000 USDA grant that allows the students to have those fruits and veggies every morning during a snack break.
"We really are stressing at school five different fruits and veggies per day, this gives them an opportunity to try different things they wouldn't normally try," Ecker said.
"Students today go throughout the day and get hungry so instead of getting sugar snacks they get fresh fruit and veggies on a daily basis," said Vicenzi.

The students are trying new, healthy things and finding what they like and don't like.  School leaders say what's important is that the program allows kids to actually try foods that are good for them.

"It's kind of like reverse peer pressure,"  Ecker said. "You see other children in class eating broccoli week after week, you see it and may try friuts and veggies you never try at home."
It's working too.  Program volunteer Brenda Noble is also a grandmother.  She says her grandaughter brings her fruit and veggie lessons home.
"We have tried new things that she has come in and mentioned to us that we haven't tried with her," Noble said.
Volunteers like Brenda keep the program running, delivering the snacks to every classroom.
"They really do look forward to it," Noble said.  "The kids in classrooms run up to us and say,' oh thank you!'"
It's not just the kids that are trying new things.
"Our staff as well, they've commented instead of grabbing chips, they've come in to get and apple or a banana," said Ecker.
Teachers are also working the program into classroom lessons.
"Each clasroom teacher tries to pull something from fruit and veggie program each month," said Ecker.  
"They teach the food pyramid and talk about healthy life and diet," added Vicenzi.
It's a lesson in healthy eating that students can take beyond school walls.
"Anything in education should be lifelong learning so kids can learn something here that they can carry on to their families," said Vicenzi.
Ecker says that the program needs more volunteers to keep going.  You can contact the school if you'd like to help out.