Health Department Helps Teachers Educate Students About Winter Produce
Thursday, September 30, 2010
With the changing seasons, a local health department is changing some of its methods to educate kids about the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, even in the winter months when produce isn't as bountiful as it is during summer.
Starting in October, Contra Costa Health Services and teachers at Richmond's Nystrom Elementary will work together to implement a curriculum about fitting fresh, seasonal produce into a healthy diet. The curriculum is based on "Harvest of the Month," a program designed by the California Department of Public Health's Network for a Healthy California that highlights one fruit or vegetable each month and provides fun facts, recipes, and activities to get kids interested in trying out the produce. October is winter squash.
Andrea Menefee, Nutrition and Physical Activity Program Manager for Contra Costa Health Services, says it is increasingly important to educate young people about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 16.1% of California adults met the daily requirement of 4½ cups of fruits and vegetables last year.
"Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals that help to reduce the risk of many serious health problems, like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer," Menefee said. "We're hoping to get people on the path to good nutrition starting at a young age."
Contra Costa Health Services has promoted the Harvest of the Month program at schools in the past, but this is the first time it's giving teachers the tools—such as activity guides, informative materials and taste testing—to implement the curriculum on their own. If the program is successful at Nystrom, it may be used elsewhere, Menefee said.
The health department promotes healthy eating at other venues as well, including community forums and farmers markets. Menefee said those messages are changing with the seasons to highlight fall produce, which includes squash, Brussels sprouts, pomegranates and more.
"Summer produce is coming to an end, but there's a whole crop of fall and winter produce that is just as tasty and nutritious," Menefee said. To promote the bounty of fall produce, the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association will offer recipients of SNAP food stamps a $5 coupon for purchases of $10 or more at the Concord and Pittsburg farmers markets through the end of October.
For more information, visit www.cchealth.org/topics/nutrition/
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