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Monday, March 21,2011

School program aims to green kids up inside & out

By Natalie Knoth
Photo Credits: Dustin Franz
Photo Caption: Students at East Elementary School wait in line for lunch Thursday. As part of St. Patrick’s day, the Athens City School District hosted ‘Wear Green, Eat Green,’ an event in which students dressed for St. Patrick’s Day, and ate dark green nutrient-rich food.
On St. Patrick’s Day, students at Athens City Schools were not only wearing green – they were eating it, too.

The school’s Eat Green Wear Green event encouraged students to eat dark leafy vegetables with fun incentives, explained Janalee Stock, nurse for Athens City Schools.

“We’re serving alternative salad; most of the time it’s iceberg lettuce. Instead we’ll have leafy green salad,” said Stock the day before the event. “We’ll have leprechaun and leaf clover stickers on the bottom on a few trays (at the elementary schools), and the students with those trays get to eat with the principal at a special green table.”

Entrée salads were prepared with leafy greens in a kid-friendly way.

“The chicken strips and mandarin oranges are very similar to Wendy’s salad, which most kids have seen before,” she said, adding that most kids are not opposed to vegetables as commonly thought. “I think it’s a myth that most kids are finicky… They say it takes four to five times for people to get used to change.”

The event was a collaborative effort with the schools’ PTOs, Community Food Initiatives, Health and Wellness Team, Green Edge Organic Gardens, Shade River Organic Farm and local grocers.

With the passage of the Hunger-Free Kids Act in December, schools now have more funding for and access to nutritious foods, but integrating healthier foods into schools is a slow and potentially difficult process. Thursday’s event was a way to experiment with nutrient-dense vegetables, said Stock.

“You learn as you go,” Stock said. “It is not a great time of year for this because there were freezes across the nation.”

Still, she said introducing better produce in the cafeterias is an important and necessary change, especially when children may not be eating fresh, nutritious foods outside of school.

“Kids are constantly bombarded with advertisements and temptations that are not great for their long-term health,” Stock explained, “and we’re trying to make changes that will be good for their long-term health.”


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