In an effort to promote healthy eating habits, the and in Moorestown, partnered to host the “Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week,” an initiative signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie last January.
The program being hosted throughout the Garden State this week has been launched in an effort to teach students the benefits of eating more than 100 types of Jersey-grown vegetables and fruits.
Studies suggest that when students are served nutritious meals at school, they improve their diets, and foster success in academics. These healthy habits continue through life.
Last Tuesday, at 10:15 a.m., during the first lunch period at the , an autumn-decorated table was set with whole carrots, sliced peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, celery and apples.
The idea is to get students to pick a carrot over a French fry.
Culinary arts teacher Michael Beirao said by placing fresh foods in the cafeteria the students are swayed to munch and crunch on good stuff.
“If we forced them to eat the vegetables,” Beirao said, “they wouldn’t want them.”
Beirao said eight students from his Foods 1 class volunteered to skin, slice and cut up the vegetables. And, dipping containers of ranch dressing made by the students were on hand.
Lew's also set up a table at the .
“I was at the middle school this morning,” said Colleen Hart, co-owner of Lew’s Farm Market, “and the kids were waiting in long lines to get to the food. It was great.”
Hart, who has children in Cinnaminson schools, was approached by Beirao to collaborate on the program.
“I love having this here,” freshman Danielle Bootsma said, as she picked up two carrots. “I eat a lot of vegetables, but the school doesn’t usually have this many.”
Her friend, Darlene Perez, also a freshman, concurred.
“We should have this all the time,” Perez said.
Besides offering healthy tips to students, proponents of the program say it sends a positive message about New Jersey, benefits farmers and helps promote profits.
This year's fall season has been particularly hard on local farms. Some farmers are struggling with damaged crops due to a drought-like July and heavy rains in August.
“I think it is a good opportunity to work with the local schools,” Hart said, “and it gives the farming community a positive image.”