Taste Testing Healthy Foods In School - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe News Weather, Video -

Taste Testing Healthy Foods In School

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School lunches in Washoe County and across the country are undergoing a major makeover, due to new USDA guidelines. But even with the best of intentions, if kids don't want to eat the fresh fruits and vegetables on their plates, all schools end up with is a very healthy trash can.

So Washoe County School District, using a grant from the Department of Agriculture, started the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program.

Once a week kids in 34 different WCSD school get to try a new food. Last week, it was Asian pears. They have also tried lemon plums, kiwi berries, even cauliflower grown locally in Northern Nevada.

"We try to expose kids to everything across the board," WCSD Nutrition Services Director Tony Cook said.

The idea is to familiarize the kids with healthy food they haven't seen before, so when it ends up on their plates, it goes into their mouths instead of the trash can.

"Our hope is that when they go into a grocery store, when they go someplace and they see something that they recognize, that will help them make a choice and say 'I know that,'" Cook said.

A big part of that process is knowing where it all came from. That's where the Urban Roots Garden Classroom comes in. Hidden on the hillside behind West Fourth Street, this working urban farm teaches students of all ages how to grow their own food. They grow peaches and pumpkins, everything you need to garnish a pizza, and everything in between.

"If they get that shot at just tasting something fresh off the vine, or fresh off the bush, or that fresh tomato," Urban Roots Executive Director Jeff Bryant said, "it changes their minds forever."

It is all about exposure in a positive setting. Nutrition program officials said it takes between five and 15 times for children to see a food before they will accept it. And the teachers say this method actually works. Showing kids how to grow their own food makes them curious about what it tastes like.

"There are kids that are asking for celery for dinner now," Bryant said, "and before they started our summer camp they wouldn't even touch vegetables. It is getting them to realize that early, and it will lead them to healthier lifestyles down the road."

Urban Roots Garden Classroom offers week-long camps for kids of all ages. For more information on that, click here.

To find out more about the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program, click here.

Written by Arianna Bennett
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