SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KMOX) – The Illinois State Board of Education announced earlier this month that 239 schools in Illinois will participate in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) during the 2013-14 school year. All schools participating, including both public and private schools, will equally share more than $4.98 million.
“We are excited to administer this valuable federal program, which teaches our schoolchildren healthier choices by introducing them to more fruits and vegetables,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch in a press release. “Research clearly has shown that proper nutrition contributes to learning, and this is an excellent program to boost health and education.”
The nationwide program was created to increase the fruit and vegetable consumption among student by providing free fresh fruits and vegetables to students outside of regular school meals.
“We are encouraged to see these students getting more vitamins, calcium and other nutrients in their diets,” said State Board of Education Chairman Gery J. Chico in the release. “Participating schools are also offering more nutrition education, which will contribute to lifelong healthy habits for our kids.”
Mary Fergus with the Illinois State Board of Education says the idea of the program is to increase access to fruits and vegetables not just during the school breakfast or lunch periods, but during the school day to create health eating habits.
Fergus says it can even be worked into a teacher’s curriculum.
“Some schools do work with their local farmers and also build that into their education, bringing them to local farms and showing them where fruits and vegetables are grown locally,” she says.
Some schools have initiated a “Vegetable of the Day” to entice students to try produce they might otherwise not have access to and increase nutrition education efforts.
A study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture released in March 2013 showed that students in participating schools are consuming more fruits and vegetables.
Participating schools can spend from $50 to $75 on each enrolled student during the school year, with the majority of those funds spent on fresh produce.
Schools receiving FFVP grants already participate in the National School Lunch Program. The FFVP provides all students in participating school with access to a variety of free fresh fruits and vegetables at least twice a week. The program allows for school to offer additional produce anytime during the regular school day, expect during breakfast and lunch.
The complete list of Illinois schools in the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Program is available on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website.