View Full Version : Fewer fresh fruits, vegetables in Treasure Coast schools thanks to tougher program standards

24-08-2010, 12:33

Thousands of children in Treasure Coast public schools will not have fresh fruits and vegetables as a classroom snack this coming school year because their schools don’t have a high enough percentage of children on a free or reduced price lunch program.

The USDA program for schools with a majority of students on a free or reduced price lunch program is meant to provide children with fruits and vegetables they might not get otherwise. All students in a qualified school receive a morning or afternoon snack.

The reduction from about 7,600 students in 14 Treasure Coast schools to about 2,700 students in five schools is due to tougher standards issued this year by the US Department of Agriculture for its Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, said Cheryl Etters, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education which administers the program for the USDA.

In deciding which schools qualify, the state DOE is no longer allowed to consider the school’s fruit and vegetable distribution plan and can only make selections based on the percent of a school’s students on free and reduced price lunches, she said. The change allowed three schools in St. Lucie County to qualify for the first time.

“The criteria for the grant was new this year,” said Deborah Wuest, director of food and nutrition services for the St. Lucie County School District. “We anticipate that we will have more schools that will meet the requirement (next year) and will hopefully be awarded in the future. It is a great program that will teach children about different fruits and vegetables and the nutrients they provide.”

Martin and Indian River Counties each have just one school qualifying this year Warfield Elementary in Martin and Fellsmere Elementary in Indian River. Last year Martin had four schools with about 2,600 children in the program while Indian River had 10 schools with about 5,000 children in the program.

“We were one of the first districts in the state to qualify when the fruits and vegetables program started three years ago,” said Laura Roberts, director of Food Service for Indian River County schools. “Some of our principals said their students will really miss it.”

Vonda Moonier, Martin County schools Director of Food and Nutrition Services, said principals are hoping the criteria will be less stringent for next year.

“We know how much it benefited our students,” she said. “We received letters from families about it. One family told us they tried a fruit recommended by their child and it turned out that the whole family loved it.”