Promoting healthy food choices to its students, the Donald E. Schick Elementary School recently celebrated National Food Day and Apple Crunch Day by offering local snacks and homemade lunches to its students.
"Any way we can promote healthy eating in a fun, interactive way with the students, I think they get a stronger message - a more meaningful message," said Beth Hufnagel, district food service director.
Throughout the day, Hufnagel traveled through the school stopping in each classroom to talk about the importance of making good food choices. During her visits, Hufnagel explained that they always should try to eat "real food" and not processed food that comes from a box or bag.
Donald E. Schick Elementary School recently celebrated National Food Day and Apple Crunch Day to promote healthy food choices to the students. A Schick Elementary student learns about the different varieties of apples during Apple Crunch Day.
To encourage students to make healthy choices when eating, a group of staff members dressed up as fruit and vegetables and performed a show for the students.
"Food is best when it's not processed," Hufnagel told students.
Students then were able to snack on apples, which were grown locally. Hufnagel reported to students that apples are the No. 2 most-popular fruit snack in the country.
Hufnagel explained that Food Day was created to promote affordable, sustainable options at the dinner table. Apple Crunch Day promotes apples that are grown within the state. Hufnagel added that the school was using the day to show students how they can make healthy snack choices.
During the lunch period, students also were able to see the number of varieties of apples available. Students were able to guess what kind of apple each one was.
Hufnagel said she wanted students to be able to feel, see and smell the apples.
But the food education didn't end there as the cafeteria served chicken pot pie, which was made from scratch by food service employees. Hufnagel said that as districts are looking at ways to add nutritional value to lunches, they are focusing more efforts on scratch cooking.
"I think it's extremely important, as school lunches try to regain their roots in scratch cooking," Hufnagel said. "It sends an important message."
She added that "it's been a challenge, but also very rewarding," to do more scratch cooking.
The district also is trying to purchase more local produce, Hufnagel said.
With rising concern for childhood obesity, Hufnagel explained that anything the schools can do to create a healthy lifestyle for students, they will do.
To help introduce new and different food choices, Hufnagel said they will serve the item with other food items students already are familiar with.
The hope is that students will learn eating habits that they will use their entire life.
"It's extremely important to send a strong message early in life," she said.