It’s hard to get kids to eat their vegetables, but at Howard Drive Elementary school, located at the corners of 136th Street and 77th Avenue, students form a long line for anything green on Fridays.
Howard Drive Elementary parents Liz VanDeWater and Karin Rumie, along with the school’s PTA and several helpers, have made Fruity Fridays a passion. Each Friday, seasonal fresh fruits, juices and veggies are purchased, cut up and sold in the breezeway on the way to the carpool area after school. The generous fruit and juice servings are $1, and the veggies are free for the taking, so students have an opportunity to try something different and increase their food palate. At a recent Fruity Friday, students gulped down all-natural, freshly squeezed apple cider, and noshed on honey-crisp apple slices, while they tried some refreshingly crunchy snow peas.
“We just want kids to try new, healthy foods, whether it’s carrots, sweet potato, celery, kale chips or snow peas,” explained VanDeWater. “Kids love the kale chips and we’re usually wiped out of those fairly quickly.”
In accordance with district policy on food sold at schools, HDE strives to offer healthy options that will enrich its students’ nutrition and health. At least half of children worldwide suffer from one or more micronutrient deficiency, such as iron, iodine, vitamin A, folate and zinc, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deficiencies in these nutrients can have devastating consequences for brain development, growth and immunity.
“We are so fortunate to have such passionate parents who have dedicated every week to our students. The seeds of nutrition they plant today will no doubt have an effect on the way our students eat in the future,” declared HDE Principal Deanna Dalby.
During a recent Fruity Friday, VanDeWater said she made $82 on the produce offered and said it makes her feel good that the kids are eating natural foods instead of candy or processed, salty snacks.
The profits for the program go right back into the PTA fund, but only cover some of the costs. In the past, the Fruity Friday team has partnered with local vendors to provide fruit and veggie smoothies.
“We’re looking for more partnerships, donations and sponsorships from the community and our parents here at the school,” stated Rumie. While they’re determined to lead kids to healthy food choices, they’d like to expand the offerings. “It’s so rewarding to see happy faces when they taste something new,” she said.
“This is a worthy service that PTA is involved in and we hope for more community involvement,” said PTA President Nicole Connolly. “It’s Liz’s last year at Howard Drive—her daughter graduates this school year—so we want to be sure that what she started here continues for years to come.”