Elementary students at three Gainesville schools are about to learn that fresh fruits and vegetables are anything but icky.
Three Gainesville elementary schools received state-funded U.S. Department of Agriculture grants totaling $116,000 to provide fruits and vegetable snacks along with lesson information about fresh produce.
Nutritional Director Tiffany Lommel said the program teaches children about the importance of fresh produce at an early age. Lommel announced the schools that received the grant at a work session Monday.
Gainesville Exploratory Academy has received the grant for three straight years.
This is the second year Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School has participated in the program, and for New
Holland Core Knowledge Academy, this will be their first time enacting the USDA program.
Centennial Arts Academy and Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy will not participate in the program.
“I think it’s important to start teaching life lessons as early as possible, and healthy eating is one of the most important things you can teach,” Lommel said.
Lommel grew up on a farm and knows the value of learning where fruits and vegetables come from.
“I was able to watch produce grow from seed to fruit,” she said.
It may seem like common knowledge, but for city-raised kindergartners, the life cycle of an apple may be a completely foreign idea.
That’s why it’s so important to teach children about produce early, Lommel said.
With the grant money, the schools will be able to spend about $52 on each child from pre-kindergarten to fifth grade solely to buy fresh produce.
Additionally, each teacher will receive informational handouts and pamphlets on each fruit or vegetable.
School board member Maria Calkins threw her whole-hearted support behind the program, saying children respond better to eating fruits and vegetables once they’ve learned a lesson about them.
Lommel added that the program helps to combat obesity and give a boost to budding immune systems. It also exposes children to a variety of produce, including some they may have never seen before.
In addition to traditional apples and broccoli, students will also get a chance to munch on starfruit, jicama and papaya, Lommel said.
The school board also approved a motion for the school system to take ownership of Bobby Gruhn Field. Bobby Gruhn, also known as the Home of the Red Elephants, was previously leased to the school system.
It was shared between the city parks and recreation department and the school system in an intergovernmental agreement.
Gainesville Parks and Recreation will continue to use the fields for certain events.
Also at the meeting, Gainesville City Schools Instructional Director Jamey Moore introduced this school year’s balanced scorecard. The scorecard provides board members with what is essentially a collective report card of all students. It includes the percentage of students that meet certain standards in math, reading, social studies and science courses.
The board also approved moving school board meetings from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. for this school year.
Board member Sammy Smith introduced the idea, and initially board members were considering a trial adoption of the new time for the first semester of school only.
But board member Delores Diaz expressed concern that the change from 7 p.m. to 6 p.m. and back again after the semester ended might confuse some attendees. After a brief discussion, board members voted to change the meeting time for the full year.