Saturday, August 15, 2020
Students at Lemonweir Elementary School will be able to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of labor from the effort of principal Nicki Pope after the school received a $14,400 grant to purchase fruits and vegetables that will be served has healthy options for classroom snacks during the school year. Pope is pictured with Micheal Nelson, Michael Diaz, Jakob Spieker, Blake Champlin, Angel Cepeda and Amerie Cepeda munching on strawberries and blueberries. Contributed photo

Lemonweir Elementary receives grant to offer fresh fruits, vegetables as snacks

Nicki Pope is an elementary educator.

She knows that lessons learned at an elementary age are more likely to be retained at a middle school and high school age. That is a key reason Pope, principal at Tomah's Lemonweir Elementary School, applied for a Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) grant.

The program is part of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA), a nationwide program that operates in select elementary schools in the 50 States, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Its purpose is to provide funding for all states to make more fresh fruits and vegetables in school meal programs.

The program provides children in elementary schools a variety of free fresh fruits and vegetables. This grant opportunity must be applied for annually.

The level of funds provided to a school depends on the enrollment and the available funding provided by the USDA. Pope learned about the program through the Wisconsin Department of Instruction.

The goal is to expand and increase the variety and amount of fruits and vegetables children experience and consume. Fruits and vegetables are already part of the food service meal plan. But the grant increased the opportunity for healthy snack choices.

Combined with nutrition education and a reinforcement of healthful eating habits, the program emphasizes long-term goals of influencing children's life-long eating habits and preventing childhood obesity.

At Lemonweir the fruit and vegetables will be part of a daily snack regiment. Teachers and support staff will be able to tap into a supply to serve at respective snack times in their classroom. Pope wants to encourage healthy options.

"We want to expose students to more fruits and vegetables," Pope said. "Just to have them try it. It's easier to hand out (snack) crackers, but everyone is pitching in to make it work."

Lemonweir participated in the program a few years ago. Funding sources and its guidelines caused the program to fall by the wayside until this school year.

Pope received the grant award letter on Wednesday, Aug. 14 with notification the school received $14,400. Her goal was to have the food available by Friday, Aug. 16 for room snacks.

The first purchase of fruit and vegetables was last week. Pope will purchase the items from local businesses/growers and online through Reinhart Foodservice. She plans to work with local growers like Moseley's for apples and Habelman's for fresh cranberries.

Another component associated with providing healthy snacks is teaching students where food comes from. Grocery stores are the purchase point. Lemonweir elementary has a small garden. Most classrooms have a compost container for food waste and there is a compost area by the garden.

Pope commends building staff for their involvement. Support staff helps get snacks organized and teachers make it available in their rooms. She extended thanks for cooperation from food service employees to make room in the kitchen refrigerator for storage to prevent spoilage.

Pope wants to experiment with options students are not familiar with like dragon fruit or artichoke hearts. Will they like them? Never know until they try.

Pope knows from past experience the extra time involved to keep detailed records per grant guidelines. She also wants to document successes because she knows one thing. "I plan to apply for it again," Pope said.

Returning schools do not have to submit a new application each year. Instead they are permitted to update their application on file, at the discretion of the state agency.


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