Raymond School District News

Two Raymond Schools Get Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snacks
By Penny Williams    12-03-14

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service and the New Hampshire Department of Education, is in place in two Raymond schools, the Iber Holmes Gove Middle School and the Lamprey River Elementary School.

Raymond School District Food Service Director Judy DiNatale said grants provided for the program allow fresh vegetable and/or fruit snacks to be provided to the students three days a week in addition to but not at the same time as regular school meals are provided.

The program is intended to help change the way students eat. Being offered healthy, fresh vegetable and fruit snacks is a creative way to get students to try new vegetables and fruits and to develop healthier eating habits, school officials say, and note it also forges links between fresh food items and local farms.

FFVP is seen as an important catalyst for change in efforts to combat childhood obesity by helping children learn more healthful eating habits. It introduces school children to a variety of produce that they otherwise might not have had the opportunity to sample.

The program is administered through the New Hampshire Department of Education and provides support to 95 eligible schools in low-income communities. According to the Department of Education Web site, to participate in this program eligible schools must have 50 percent or higher participation in the free and reduced lunch program. Funds are distributed to the school based on the number of students, and between $50 and $75 is allocated per student.

DiNatale said the middle school is eligible because it contains a fifth grade and is therefore considered elementary. The program has just begun in both schools, and she met with each school’s leadership team to determine the best schedule for delivering the snacks to each classroom.

She said more and more vendors are getting involved, and she makes a concerted effort to use local produce whenever possible.

“We have participated in this program before and one advantage to this time is we are able to get pre-packaged items in some cases,” she said. “That reduces the amount of time involved in the labor-intensive preparation. We spend as much on labor and preparation as we do on food. With some of the offerings already prepared in portions, we have some controls in place.”

DiNatale said the elementary school snacks are delivered directly to the classroom, while the middle school snacks are brought to a common area.

“We are varying the offerings and providing as good a list of fresh vegetables and fruits as we can get,” she said. “We are trying to keep the costs down by getting as many combinations as we can find available, such as sugar snap pea pods and grape tomatoes. But others, such as plain carrots, celery, and pepper strips, have to be cut into appropriate portions. We are trying to get some new varieties such as mango chunks. One day we are providing a whole fruit, such as an apple, a banana, or Clementine. Everything has to be raw.”

The program will last as long as the money holds out. DiNatale said every effort is being made to cut down on the labor aspects of the program, and her plan is to make the money stretch over the entire school year. If she is able to get enough already proportioned items, thus reducing labor costs, her hope is that when the program is re-evaluated in February, there will be enough money to allow her to offer fresh vegetable and fruit snacks four days a week.

“The program was very well received when it was in place previously,” she said. “It was in the middle school, and now the elementary school students are very excited to have it.”

Asked if she will apply for the grant again next year, she responded that any time any of the Raymond schools are eligible for the FFVP, she would apply for it. And she noted the availability of produce is greater now than in past years and more is being added.

“Kids are much more likely to eat fresh vegetables and fruit,” she said. “If funds are available we will add another snack day this year and if schools are eligible for the FFVP next year we will go for it. We’re here to feed the children, and this is a great program that gets us additional help in doing that.”

























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