Eat your spinach!: School children give thumbs up in taste tests (VIDEO)
Originally Published: October 23, 2015 6 a.m.
Young noses might crinkle at the thought of a lunch special with spinach and carrots as key ingredients.On the other hand, they just might discover that fresh spinach and carrots can prove a tasty treat. Spinach can be a surprise substitute for lettuce, and carrots a crunchy, slightly sweet vegetable proving to be an appealing snack. Kid-friendly recipes with spinach and carrots - such as carrot cake or spinach cheese squares - are readily available nowadays.At Coyote Springs Elementary School in Prescott Valley on Thursday, students got a chance to taste test small cups of spinach covered with a bit of tangy dressing.Beyond a few shaking heads when offered a try, the bulk of students were more than happy to try the vegetable, and most decided they liked the "leafy" taste. A few weren't wild about the dressing."I eat it all," declared first-grader Claire Donnell, who said she first tried spinach at her brother's Boy Scout event. "I thought it was yummy ... I like fruits and vegetables."Noah Guillen was not wild about the spinach. But he said he generally likes to eat healthy food.Wearing a Batman shirt, first-grader Zachary Wiatrolik offered a thumbs up sign when asked how he felt about the taste test."I ate it all," declared his classmate Jayden Fendley, who held up his empty spinach cup.In keeping with a national effort to promote healthier eating in school-aged children, four schools in the Prescott and Humboldt school districts this week asked students during their lunch hours to taste test fresh spinach or carrots. The featured vegetables were from two farms in Paulden - the spinach from Aguiar Farm and the rainbow carrots from Whipstone Farm.The four participating schools are Mile High Middle, Granite Mountain and Taylor Hicks Elementary schools in Prescott and Coyote Springs Elementary school in Prescott Valley.Yavapai Seasonal Harvest partnered with the Prescott Farmers Market, the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, Food Corps Arizona, AmeriCorps Vista and Health Services as part of the National Farm to School Month.Humboldt's Director of Child Nutrition Tami Hitt-Wyant said this event is a chance to educate children and encourage healthy nutrition so that it becomes a practice not only at school but also at home.Public schools are required to follow federal nutritional guidelines, 80 percent of which must be fresh food products that fit into the nutritional guidelines of whole grains, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables, and lean protein, said district nutritionist Pamela Liuzzo. Federal reimbursement for the local school food program is $3.15 a meal.In 2012, local food purchases by schools across the nation returned more than $385 million to those communities, said Anupama Joshi, executive director of the National Farm to School Network, in a Yavapai County Community Health Services news release. "Farm to school is an important tool in the fight against childhood obesity and food insecurity," Joshi stated.Humboldt's food distributor contracts with some larger Arizona farms for its produce, but so far no local farms are large enough or federally certified to provide produce to the schools, Hitt-Wyant said. She noted this district buys 20,000 pounds of carrots per year.In the future, Hitt-Wyant said the hope is that schools will be able to buy at least some of its produce locally.Five years ago, Congress designated October as the time to recognize the importance of connecting farm fresh foods with schools as a means to promote healthier children and to bolster the local economy, the news release said.School leaders welcome the chance to stretch their children's palates with fresh and healthy fare. "Farm to School is what community is all about. Teaching about the links between farm and garden to table is a great way to promote healthy living to our students and families," Prescott United School District Schools Superintendent Joe Howard said in a statement.Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter@HutsonNanci Reach her at 928-445-3333 Ext. 2041 or 928-642-6809.Mobile users click here for the video