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Use snacks to introduce new foods

3. school snacks-5

Sand Fork Elementary students, along with tens of thousands of other West Virginia kids, enjoy a fresh fruit or vegetable snack every afternoon, thanks to the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program.  Photo: Kate Long

The  kindergartners in the picture above at Gilmer County’s Sand Fork Elementary are loving their fresh pineapple slices, thanks to the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program.

West Virginia is a national leader in this program. Almost all eligible West Virginia schools take part. Schools that have a high percent of lower-income children can participate.

“It has made a big difference in their willingness to try new foods and in the range of foods they realize they like,” said principal Sue McCue.

In 2011-12, the federal program spent $1.9 million in West Virginia. An increasing amount of that money is going to West Virginia growers.  “We’d like t do even more,” said state Office of Child Nutrition director Rick Goff. “We can buy from West Virginia farmers for the snack program through the Farm to School program.”

In some counties, local farmers who supplied snacks have visited the classrooms, and children have visited their farms. “The children love that,” said David Seay, Fayette County nutrition director. “They can really see where food comes from.”

Classroom materials sometimes come with the snacks, so children can learn about foods as they eat. They learn how and where foods grow, how people fix them, how that food helps their bodies.


“When the children try a vegetable or fruit during their snack time, then they see it on the salad bar, they ask for it,” said Lincoln County’s Midway Elementary principal Cheryl Workman. “They literally crowd the salad bar.”

Schools can order foods they want from a USDA list. That means teachers can coordinate snacks with their lessons.  One Mingo County school, for instance, ordered tropical fruits while some classes were studying South American countries.

Schools use the classroom materials to varying degrees, Office of Child Nutrition staff say. At schools that do teach about the foods, “the kids have become a lot more interested in trying different things. When they see those same foods on the salad bar, they want them,” said Lincoln County’s Midway Elementary principal Cheryl Workman.

Parents say it carries over to the home, Workman said. “One mother told me her son came home and asked if they could have asparagus for dinner. And she said, ‘I thought, where in the world did you have asparagus?’ This is a kid who only wanted chicken nuggets before.”


If your school is eligible:


Dingess children enjoy a fresh watermelon snack.

Offer to help. Many classroom teachers would love help with educational food programs to go with the snacks, programs that tell them how the foods grow and where they grow. Call your county nutrition director to ask about it:

Look at the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program handbook:

Here is a slide show that shows Midway Elementary kids crowding the salad bar. Teachers and cafeteria personnel say the children are excited to see foods they tasted in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program:


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