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Fresh fruits and veggies land at WDC Elementary again

When Wadena-Deer Creek teacher Mandy Gallant told her kindergarten class they would be receiving fresh fruit and veggie snacks, they cheered.

"They were so excited about it," said Gallant, who has a class of 20 energetic kindergartners. "Having the snacks in the afternoon has been such a treat! The kids look forward to what we will be eating each day. I personally like the variety. To be honest, there are some things we've tried that I have never eaten. I know the kids have gone home and introduced their parents to some of these fruits and vegetables as well."

That's exactly what WDC Food Service Director Sandie Rentz enjoys hearing. She said last year's introduction of the fresh fruits and vegetable snack program was a great success. The healthy snacks were made possible thanks to a grant Rentz applied for and was awarded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the 2008 Farm Bill.

Rentz applied for the grant again this fall and WDC Elementary was once again awarded the grant. She said the grant has been a great way to introduce WDC students to a healthy alternative for their afternoon snack.

"We are pleased to be awarded it for another year. I have heard from parents, grandparents and community members about what a great learning experience this has been for WDC students," Rentz said.

WDC Elementary started serving healthy snacks again in early December. Students enjoy a fresh fruit or veggie snack five days a week. Russ Davis Wholesale of Wadena will again be a partner in the program providing a variety of fruits and vegetables, along with educational materials.

Each week, Russ Davis Wholesale delivers a variety of fresh fruits and veggies, including carrots, snap peas, asparagus, grapefruit, grapes, clementines, cara cara oranges, blueberries, cantaloupe, pears, star fruit, mini bananas, pineapple and strawberries.

More choices will be introduced throughout the school year, Rentz said. WDC Elementary cooks prepare the snacks each day for the students.

When the snacks arrive at their classroom, Gallant takes a moment to explain what the fruit or veggie is, where it is grown and answers any questions her students may have. She also encourages her students to try the unique fruits or veggies. Gallant often refers to the classic Dr. Seuss story, "Green Eggs and Ham," to illustrate her point.

"I always make my kids take a 'thank you' bite. Sometimes they might not like the appearance of something or they 'think' they may not like the food, but once they've tried it, they change their minds," Gallant said.

Gallant is not alone in how she feels about having the fresh fruits and veggies program back.

"I am not the only teacher and we are not the only class that feels this way. We are all cheering," Gallant said.