Article By Karen Yi
Kids can be finicky when it comes to filling up on fruits and veggies — “they don’t taste right, they taste funny,” said 13-year-old Kiondre Andino — but sometimes the best way to get picky eaters to eat is to have them pick and grow the food themselves.
And schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties are doing just that.
Students at Parkway Middle School of the Arts in Lauderhill spent Tuesday building a vertical hydroponic garden — or a garden that doesn’t use soil — that will eventually yield vegetables such as broccoli, Bok Choy, Swiss chard and bell peppers.
Though he may not the biggest fan of greens, Andino, a seventh grade student at Parkway, said he’d give the vegetables a shot since he helped grow them. “We’re gonna eat ‘em and see how good they are,” he said.
“If you grow it yourself, all the more you want to try it. And if you try it, you might like it,” said Chef Dee Lennox, president emeritus of the Fort Lauderdale chapter of the American Culinary Federation, who sponsored the garden.
This year, the federal government implemented new healthy eating initiatives, requiring district schools to provide more variety of fruits and vegetables and lower fat milks.
“It hasn’t been a drastic change for us because for many years, Palm has been proactive,” said Paula Triana, assistant director of nutrition and wellness promotion in Palm Beach.
Jamie McCarthy, a nutrition specialist in Palm Beach, said cafeteria managers promote the OrganWise Guys program to show kids how to love their bodies while they’re in the cafeteria line. She said more than 30 schools in the district also have some type of community garden.
“One of the biggest things that I think kids are missing the mark on these days is … there’s a local connection to the food that you’re eating,” McCarthy said.
Every month, the Broward school district selects a fruit or vegetable of the month to promote in the elementary classrooms and that’s been helping with the new lunch program.
“We try to attractively market it,” Darlene Moppert, a program manager for nutrition education and training in the district, said. “It demystifies it … when the kids go into the grocery store, sometimes they want to buy what they had at the schools.”
So while not all kids may like their veggies, for Parkway student Deon Cross, there’s at least one perk about growing your own food – “it’s mine and I get to eat it all,” the 12-year-old said.
Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel
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