Students are having tasty lessons these days with help from local greenhouses, including Delta's Windset Farms. Director of sales Jeff Madu has been supplying local produce to classrooms since 2006.
It's all happening as part of the B.C. School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program. The idea is to teach kids the benefits of eating healthy food.
"We grow small-sized varieties like baby bell peppers, grape tomatoes and mini-cucumbers," says Madu, "and they're perfect for the classroom. It's just a case of wash and serve."
Only one in five children eats the recommended minimum of five fruits and veggies per day. That's why the program tries to increase awareness about the delicious variety of fresh local produce.
Kids learn fun facts while they're snacking on baby bell peppers, such as peppers are a fruit, not a veggie, and you can get a dose of vitamins just by eating them.
The problem sometimes is just getting kids to try new foods. Can watching classmates eating produce tempt kids to try some themselves?
"Yes," Madu enthuses, "I've received letters from parents saying my kids never wanted to eat tomatoes, but they tried them in the classroom and now they like them."
"Eating habits developed in childhood influence our health later in life," says Lindsay Babineau.
As executive director of Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation, she is part of the team that developed and runs the program.
"That's why we want to get kids eating fruits and veggies as early as possible."
There's often a learning curve when offering something new. She tells how the first tray of fruits and vegetables offered to students at one school stayed untouched all day. Happily, the kids are fast learners. Now the produce is gobbled down as soon as it's put out.
The program covers schools throughout the province, including innercity, First Nations and schools in remote northern communities.
"We use produce from farms across B.C., but sometimes it has to travel by truck and ferry to get to those remote schools," says Babineau, "and it's wonderful to think some of these kids are being exposed to new produce. Some of them have never seen a mini-cuke before, and they just love them."
The program also teaches important lessons about food safety. Students must wash their hands before they pick a pepper or crunch on a cuke. And though the produce comes already washed, students are taught to wash their hands as well as the produce they eat outside the classroom.
Throughout the province, 6.3 million servings of produce were used during this past school year, including over three millions servings of greenhouse tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
Twenty-four Delta schools now participate in the program, including classes from kindergarden through Grade 12.