TRENTON – Queen City Academy Charter School in Plainfield is one of nine schools that will receive $7,500 mini-grants for programs to help students eat more fruits and vegetables, learn about good nutrition and promote locally grown produce from the New Jersey Department of Agriculture and Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Department of Family and Community Health Sciences.
“Children are more likely to eat foods they’ve had a part in growing, so with this funding, the schools will plant vegetable gardens and get a hands-on lesson on where our food comes from,” said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. “The aim of the grants is to help students make healthier choices when reaching for a snack, instill an appreciation for produce grown here in the Garden State and promote healthier lifestyles.”
Other recipients of the mini-grants were: Aura Elementary School in Elk Township; Cape May City Elementary School in Cape May; Chesterfield Township Elementary School; Ethel McKnight Elementary School in East Windsor; Francis A. Desmares Elementary School in Flemington; Knowlton Township Elementary School; Mount Prospect Elementary School in Basking Ridge; and, Uptown School Complex in Atlantic City.
The nine pilot schools must use their mini-grants to promote fruit and vegetable consumption through fun, interactive lessons and activities, which will link classroom education to the foods served in the cafeteria, including food tastings, promotion of locally grown produce and strategies to engage families and the community.
A school garden will be planted in each of the nine schools. They will be required to grow at least three different vegetables that will be harvested and sampled by students.
“We are pleased to welcome these nine schools into the Grow Healthy New Jersey Garden-Based School Wellness Team Nutrition Grant Program,” said Dr. Kathleen Morgan, Chair, Department of Family and Community Health Sciences of Rutgers Cooperative Extension. “After a rigorous review, these schools were selected based on their commitment and potential to provide their students, staff, families and broader school communities with the best possible opportunities to improve their health through improved nutrition and physical activity.”
The mini-grants are part of a $340,250 Team Nutrition Training Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to train foodservice professionals, increase fruit and vegetable consumption, and promote locally grown produce in school meals.
New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture will work with Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s Department of Family and Community Health Sciences on the two-year grant project.
The program will include training for foodservice managers and staff to implement the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into both school meals and a la carte offerings. They will be trained on how to make their meals more appealing and “kid-friendly,” and how to start school gardens and initiate more Farm to School programs.
Another component of the grant program, New Jersey schools will be encouraged to take the Healthier U.S. School Challenge, www.fns.usda.gov/tn/healthierus/index.html, a voluntary initiative established to recognize schools participating in the National School Lunch Program that have created healthier school environments through promotion of nutrition and physical activity. Fifteen New Jersey schools have attained the Challenge award this year.
The Department of Agriculture enacted a school nutrition policy several years ago and administers the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs. It also runs the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides fresh produce to students in 101 schools throughout the state on a regular basis. The Department also is working with schools and local farmers to help incorporate Jersey Fresh produce into school meals.
The Department is partnering with Rutgers Food Innovation Center on a farm to school project to develop innovative single-serve food items, made from state agricultural products that can be used in school lunch or breakfast.
Rutgers’ Department of Family and Community Health Sciences has been engaged in a two-year initiative, “Get Moving Get Healthy New Jersey.” Partnering with 4-H Youth Development, the program is targeted at improving the nutrition and physical activity of New Jersey residents.
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