All students at Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s Will Rogers Elementary School will now be able to enjoy a fresh healthy snack thanks to the new federal government-sponsored “Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program” (FFVP).
The goal of the program is to increase children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables in order to both combat childhood obesity and improve youngsters’ life-long eating habits. Literature from FFVP states that in areas where it has been piloted, the program resulted in an immediate change in the eating habits of the participating students. Students decreased their purchase of soda, chips, and candy and also began to positively influence their family’s eating habits.
Schools who participated in the pilot program also noticed that children who consume more fruits and vegetables have increased cognition, longer attention spans, are less hungry throughout the day, visit the nurse’s office less, and have fewer behavior problems.
This federal program is being targeted towards elementary schools with a high proportion of students from low-income families. Will Rogers Elementary School is just one of 25 schools in California chosen to participate in the program this academic year.
Irma Lyons, who is the principal of Will Rogers Elementary School, told the Mirror that her school was chosen as one of the initial schools to receive a grant because they have had a student gardening program for 10 years and a salad bar in their lunch program for 11 years.
The school received $26,100 ($50 per student) for the current academic year so that all their students can enjoy a fresh snack at no charge. Program guidelines state that 90 percent of the funds a school receives must be used to purchase fresh snacks.
In an interview with the Mirror, the School District’s Nutritionist, Donna Richwine, explained, “90 percent of the produce being used for the program comes from the Santa Monica Farmers’ Markets.” The produce is ordered directly from the farmers.
California’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction for Nutrition Services, Phyllis Bramson-Paul, also spoke with the Mirror. She noted that, “on average children are only eating half of the fruits and vegetables they need.” The program is targeting low-income children because research has shown that “obesity is more prevalent in low-income populations.” She also mentioned that the program is targeting the elementary school children because it’s much “easier to change a child’s eating habits when they are young.”
The program hopes to expand and therefore be able to target all elementary school students in 10 years.