Grant provides fresh food to schoolsPublished 6:05am Wednesday, September 5, 2012
School and health officials have been fighting America’s childhood obesity problem for years now, so when an opportunity came along five years ago to help city school children have access to healthier snacks during the week, school officials jumped at the chance to make that a reality.
The healthy snacks that Russellville City Schools provides to students at West Elementary and Russellville Elementary are made possible through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), which is a government-funded grant program.
The program is made available through the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008, which amended the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch to offer extra fruits and vegetables as a snack during the school day.
This is the fifth year that West Elementary has been able to participate in this program and the fourth year for Russellville Elementary.
For this school year, West Elementary received $35,722 and Russellville Elementary received $35,144 in grant funding for the program that officially kicked off on Aug. 24
That money will go towards providing snacks such as pineapple, watermelon, carrots, roasted corn and many other fruits or vegetables on Tuesday and Thursday each week.
After hearing about the program several years ago, RCS Child Nutrition Director Elaine Vaughn decided to apply because she knew it would be a good way to make sure the elementary-age students had access to healthy-eating options throughout the week.
“It just made sense that we should apply for the program since it is an effective and creative way of introducing fresh fruits and vegetables as healthy snack options,” Vaughn said.
In the program’s inaugural year, Russellville City Schools ended up being one of the 25 school systems chosen to participate in the FFVP.
Once Vaughn found out the school system could keep reapplying for the grants, she said she plans to seek funding every year it is available.
“The great thing about this program is that it serves a couple of different purposes,” Vaughn said. “Of course it obviously provides the students with a healthy snack that is better for them and provides them with more nutrients than most of the other snacks children have access to today.
“The program also exposes the students to foods that they may have not tried before. Children typically don’t want to try new things, but if they see their classmates are trying and enjoying something, they’ll be more open to try it, too.
“Our hope is that by at least trying these foods, the students will learn they have many healthy options when it comes to snacking and will choose healthier foods on their own in the future, which will hopefully lead to a lifelong healthy lifestyle.”
One of the most popular weeks of the FFVP is no doubt the week when the school system is able to bring in Dady’s Roasted Corn, which has become a staple at the annual Franklin County Watermelon Festival.
“That’s something the kids and the teachers all look forward to,” Vaughn said. “They’ll set up their stand at both schools during that week and we love to see the students get excited because that’s really the purpose – to get them excited about healthy foods.”
Vaughn said she’s received high praise for the program from teachers and administrators who see the students enjoying the snacks each week.
“This has been a great program for our school system and it’s something we hope to continue as long as we can,” she said.