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Fresh, locally grown strawberries from Mitcham’s Farm are coming to Newton County School System cafeterias in early May.  This is the third consecutive school year that Mitcham’s Farm, a family owned and operated farm located in Oxford, Georgia, has supplied strawberries for Newton County Schools.

This year, the NCSS School Nutrition Department was one of several school nutrition departments across the state that took the Georgia Organic’s “Five Million Meals” pledge to serve more locally grown produce in the cafeteria. Offering fruit to students that is not only Georgia grown, but is grown within our own county, is one way the Nutrition Department is upholding this pledge.

Offering fresh, locally grown produce is considered one of several types of “Farm to School” activities encouraged by government organizations and community agencies for their positive impact on children, farmers, and the local economy. According to the National Farm to School Network, studies on Farm to School activities have shown a positive impact on students’ nutrition knowledge and food choices.

For instance, a study evaluating the impact of a Farm to School Program in Wisconsin found that students’ knowledge of healthy eating and acceptance of fruits and vegetables increased after participation in Farm to School activities. In addition, third through fifth grade students in schools that had Farm to School activities in previous years were more likely to select fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria, and to eat them, than students in schools without prior Farm to School initiatives.  

Eating fruits and vegetables is important for children as these foods are rich in vitamins and minerals and are generally lower in calories, fat, and sodium than many other types of foods. In addition, research shows that consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables has the potential to reduce the risk of developing certain diseases later in life.

Strawberries are low in calories and fat and are free of cholesterol, but are packed with nutrients including dietary fiber, folate, vitamin C, and potassium. A one cup serving of strawberries is considered a good source of fiber, containing 3 grams for this serving size, and is high in vitamin C, supplying 163% of an individual’s Daily Value for this vitamin. In addition, strawberries contain special compounds, called phytochemicals, which protect the plant against environmental hazards, but also protect human cells, thus potentially reducing the risk for developing certain diseases such as heart disease and some types of cancers.

Despite the healthfulness of fruits and vegetables, encouraging children to eat them can be a challenge. The United States Department Agriculture (USDA) provides tips for parents to encourage their children to eat more fruits and vegetables. Some of these tips include involving children in fruit and vegetable selection and preparation, using fruit in smoothies, and providing healthy yogurt-based dips to accompany fruits and vegetables. For more information, download the USDA’s 10 Tips Nutrition Education Series: Kid Friendly Veggies and Fruits at http://www.choosemyplate.gov/food-groups/downloads/TenTips/DGTipsheet11KidFriendlyVeggiesAndFruits.pdf 

For more information or references, please contact Brittany Bingeman, SNP Wellness Coordinator at bingeman.brittany@newton.k12.ga.us or 770-784-4966.

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