Chapel Hill News

Try-It Friday teaches kids in Orange County Schools the importance of nutrition

Third and fifth graders at Hillsborough Elementary and Grady Brown Elementary enthusiastically volunteered to try fish wraps, Caesar salad and whole-wheat French toast this month.

“Vegetables, like carrots, help me stay awake and focused during school,” said fifth grader Mark Hinton, “And eating healthy will help me train to be in football next year.”

Others chimed in with agreement.

“I really liked the fish wrap because it reminded me of my dad – he takes me fishing,” said Carlos Mitchell.

“I need fruits and vegetables and protein, so I can have the strength to shoot the hoops and win the games,” the fifth grader added.

The kids were involved in the Try-It Friday event Dec. 11 that is part of the Kohl’s Fav 5 Club funded by Kohl’s department stores. In partnership with the N.C. Children’s Hospiital, UNC’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and Orange County Schools, the program was put together to fight the childhood obesity epidemic in North Carolina.

The children were asked to participate and then fill out a survey.

Teachers and coaches walked around in fruit and vegetable costumes, donated by the N.C. Farm to School Program, which promotes North Carolina grown produce.

“It is always exciting working with students,” said Valerie Green, Orange County School’s child nutrition director. “We can make sure that children have a healthy breakfast and lunch at school, with protein, fruits and vegetables.

“When they learn about healthier eating habits, it has a big payoff on their success at school and gives them a foundation of life long health.”

Empty calories

According to the Kohl’s Fav 5 Club, more than half of all American children eat school meals, and those meals provide the majority of energy and nutrition that many of those from poorer families receive each day.

Children, like adults, can chose foods full of empty calories and suffer from obesity and malnourishment simultaneously. The partnership is fighting this cycle by getting children excited to try healthy alternatives and then providing those new items on the cafeteria menu.

“Children need good health and nutrition, nurturing relationships and a safe environment to thrive,” said UNC child psychologist Spring Dawson-McClure. “The children and staff have showed so much excitement.”

“This is our last day of Try-It Friday, and we are really hoping that this is a great jumping off point to continue the partnership.”

Up next is Manager’s Choice Fridays, where cafeteria managers will come up with new healthy recipes to present each Friday to the children. These new items will also be added to the school menu.

“We are working with the kids to make realistic plans to try new items,” she said. “There is a full serving of vegetables in the fish wrap and a full serving of fruit with the French toast, and everything is made from scratch.”

‘A great start’

Grady Brown Elementary School Principal Leslie Armistad said: “I love it. The kids love it. Hopefully this will be a great start to them eating healthier and staying physically fit. The students really like the food.”

It doesn’t mean, however, there isn’t a sharp critic in the young audience.

“The food was good,” said one girl who said she wants to be an actress. “My favorite was the Caesar Salad – it was moist and had a nice dressing. I thought the French toast could have used a little more cinnamon and that the fish wrap was a little dry.”

So, there you have it.

The year-long partnership with Kohl’s Fav 5 Club has visited the lunch rooms of all seven elementary schools in Orange County. The funding is provided by the public’s purchasing of the $5 Kohl’s Cares items at the front of each department store.

Overmann: deanna.m.overmann@gmail.com

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