“1…2…3…crunch!,”was the sound of children at Morris Street school in Danbury as the 4th graders bit into a fresh crispy radish slice followed by a soft sweet sliced beet. Students enthusiastically described the colors, tastes and textures of the root veggies as they explored new flavors this Fall at the Farmers Market.
Heather Peracchio, Registered Dietitian and Assistant Extension Educator for the University of Connecticut coordinated with 4th grade teachers Rhoda Guider, Tom Young and John Zilliox at Morris Street School in Danbury, CT to talk to students about the health benefits of root vegetables. On Sept 18th, nearly 75 students were able to see and touch root vegetables like fresh turnips, beets and radishes.
Students discovered how root vegetables have long been a fall and winter staple food since they stay fresh when stored in cool temperatures, and how the term “root cellar” came about. Heather discussed the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables every day. Take home messages included 1) filling half of the plate at meals with fruits and vegetables 2) choosing seasonal produce 3) eating fruits and vegetables in all forms – fresh, frozen, or canned. Children discovered what produce grows when in Connecticut by looking at and taking home a copy of the CT Dept of Agriculture Crop Availability Calendar Students practiced reading food labels for sodium content and choosing “no salt added” for best nutrition. Heather taught them to drain and rinse canned foods to help lower the amount of salt.
Heather gave the teachers USDA MyPlate Fruit and Vegetable posters to reinforce classroom messages. These are a daily reminder for children to eat fruits and vegetables for good health. Children also took home a recipe, Roasted Root Vegetables in English and Spanish, http://recipefinder.nal.usda.gov/recipes/roasted-root-vegetables, so families could share in the veggie adventure! Two days after the in-classroom lesson the 4th graders explored root vegetables first hand by taking a walking field trip to the Danbury Farmer’s Market at Kennedy Park. Lessons were funded by USDA SNAP-Ed, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education program.