Fruit Salad Day Serves Up Health and Nutrition

healthy eating

In line with the USDA’s recent ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative, eighth graders at East Palo Alto Charter School held an event called “Fruit Salad Day” for their entire school on Sept. 17, 2009.

The 15 students in the school’s Garden Elective class helped to wash, chop, mix, and serve seasonal fruits donated by farmers' markets in Palo Alto and East Palo Alto to more than 300 schoolmates.

The event was geared at educating students on the merits of eating locally and healthily. “We try and explain to students that this food is local…. It’s not coming from some farm way out in the boondocks. We try and make sure they understand the healthiness of the food that’s grown locally and how it helps the environment,” Assistant Principal Saree Mading said.

The effort to provide students with healthy local produce runs nationwide. The USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ initiative aims to aid and develop local food systems as well as to better connect communities with local farmers, providing farmers with additional economic prospects and families with better access to fresh local produce. Its most recent project focuses on providing students across the country with locally grown produce in their school lunches, promoting healthier eating as well as support for local community farms.

nutrition

East Palo Alto Charter School’s Garden Elective Class is run by Collective Roots, an East Palo Alto-based nonprofit that promotes food system change through implementing programs centered around sustainability and gardening. Collective Roots also recently started up East Palo Alto’s first Farmers' Market in 20 years.

“Throughout the Garden class, we’re learning about health and nutrition and the science of gardening,” said Eron Sandler, garden manager and educator at Collective Roots. “Fruit Salad Day is one aspect of our health and nutrition curriculum.”

To prepare for the event, students surveyed their school community to identify the most popular fruits and prepared samples for peers to taste test. They also measured how much fruit would be needed to feed the entire school and drafted letters asking for donations of melons, grapes and stone fruit. The students of East Palo Alto Charter School enjoyed over 200 pounds of locally grown fresh fruit on Fruit Salad Day.

By helping to run the event, students “gained a really good understanding of where their food comes from and how it gets to their plates,” said Mading.

The event also encouraged students to share their knowledge and resources for healthy nutrition. Said Jonesha Hughes, 13, “Serving others is better than getting paid ... Just knowing that someone is getting healthy is enough.”

Additional reporting by Emily Gong, Citizen Journalist.

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