Health food for thought

By Denise Dick


Snack time carries a little different meaning at one city elementary school.

Instead of fat-laden potato chips or sugary cookies, Harding Elementary School children get treated to healthful alternatives such as grapes and oranges or broccoli and cauliflower.

“I like vegetables,” explained smiling second-grader Jordan Banks, 7, as she carried a sandwich bag stuffed with broccoli and cauliflower back to her classroom.

Last week, she had grapes, oranges, celery and carrots.

Second-grader Ke’Niyah Mitchell, 8, said she likes the healthful snacks too. She’s tried broccoli at home but with cheese.

The healthful snacks are available to Harding students for free each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon.

Sue Paris, of the school district’s food-services department, said the department received a $16,500 grant from the Ohio Department of Education to pilot the fresh fruit and vegetable program.

The kids love it, Paris said.

As part of the grant, teachers are incorporating healthful eating into lesson plans.

In math class, for example, teachers use fruits and vegetables as objects to add, subtract or count.

“They use them as spelling words,” she said.

The grant will provide the treats through the school year, and Paris hopes to offer the program in other Youngstown elementary schools next year.

School secretaries Lisa Cimiento, dressed as an apple, and Mary Jo Lenefonte, dressed as a bunch of grapes, passed out the healthful snacks Thursday. The fruits and vegetables, all cleaned, cut and packaged by distributors, are placed on carts draped with red-and-white checked tablecloths and wheeled through the school hallways.

Principal Diane Guarnieri led Marilyn Lane’s first-grade class in a good-health-inspired cheer as they waited their turn at the snack cart.

“Go broccoli, go cauliflower, go broccoli, go cauliflower. Yum, yum, yum,” they chanted.

A shy Delaney Jennings, 6, seemed unsure of the green and white vegetables but said he’d try them.

Luke Julius, 6, said he doesn’t like broccoli and the scent of the cauliflower turned him off, but at Lane’s urging he agreed to try both.

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