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Several weeks ago, she brought in a whole pineapple, which many students had never seen.
Food Explorers is great, she said, because it exposes kids to so many different foods. When making meals at home, “You get in a rut where you only make certain things,” she said.
The program works because it puts kids in a different environment than they’re usually in when eating. At school, it’s their decision whether to try a food, she said.
First-grader Owen Swanson is “kind of picky at home. I’m less picky at school,” he said. “I thought [the salad] was going to be icky, but it was yummy.”
Food service manager Cheryl Rosa tries to offer some of the new items, including spinach and jicama, in the cafeteria. “If we start with our kids young, when they get to middle school, they’re not going to say, ‘Yuck,’ ” she said.
Red Pine Principal Gary Anger said the program fits well with his school’s focus on health and wellness.
Access and exposure to fresh foods is important from an equity perspective, too, because poor nutrition contributes to health disparities between socioeconomic groups, he said. About 20 percent of Red Pine students receive free or reduced-price lunches, he said, and there are “real economic gaps in our school.”
“[Food Explorers] has really made a huge difference. We firmly believe that healthy kids do better in school … and we’ve seen great results in our academics and behavior,” he said.
Erin Adler • 952-746-3283