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West Fargo school loading up on fruits and veggies

Janie Meyer doesn't have to sell kids on eating their fruits and vegetables at L.E. Berger Elementary. Each morning, the West Fargo students eagerly load up a container full of fresh food - from cut pineapple or mango to sugar snap peas or green ...

Janie Meyer doesn't have to sell kids on eating their fruits and vegetables at L.E. Berger Elementary.

Each morning, the West Fargo students eagerly load up a container full of fresh food - from cut pineapple or mango to sugar snap peas or green peppers.

As the cook manager, Meyer has seen the start of the free fruit and vegetable program this year at Berger not only excite kids about healthy foods but inspire them to grab more fruit and veggies at lunch.

"Just being exposed to the different things, they're more willing to try it," she said.

As the West Fargo school with the highest poverty rate, it's the district's only school to receive a state grant this year for a U.S. Department of Agriculture-funded program that provides low-income schools with free fruits and vegetables.

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"The hope is to encourage kids to eat fruits and vegetables more ... to lessen the obesity issue in the country," said Jan Sliper, the district's food service director.

It's worked at Berger.

"They look forward to it," Principal Dennis Howitz said. "We just hope it does have a lasting effect on these kids."

The $30,900 the school received this year funds 466 servings of fruit or vegetables each day Tuesday through Friday for each of the 430 students.

Another 61 North Dakota schools, including Fargo's Jefferson and Madison elementary schools, received the grant this year.

The Minnesota list has not been announced yet.

While Sliper said she'd like all schools to have the fresh snack, it isn't likely to happen soon due to the amount of extra money and work needed. However, if grant money is available next year, she said she'll apply for Berger again.

Jícama and celery aside, the program's popularity among students tells school staff it's worth the work.

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Howitz said he hasn't heard any negative comments from kids about the fruit and veggies, but, he added, "I'm guessing if we don't have this program next year, we'll have some negativity (from kids)."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

Related Topics: FOODHEALTHWEST FARGO
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