Julian M. and Jenna R. agree healthy snacks make for a better school day.
The pair are among 295 junior kindergarten to Grade 8 students benefitting from a variety of nutritional options each month at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Elementary School thanks to the Metro Green Apple School Program.
“Eating healthy snacks gives me lots of energy, so I can learn better,” said Julian, a seven-year-old Grade 2 student.
“It helps me concentrate, so I can understand things more,” added Jenna, a 10-year-old Grade 4 student. “It actually makes me excited to learn another lesson.”
The school received a $1,000 grant from the Metro Green Apple School Program in January. The program encourages students to adopt healthy eating habits by taking part in a project that will have a positive impact on their home, school or community.
The school submitted a proposal to the program last October for its project idea to introduce fresh food choices to students through a monthly program that encourages fresh foods in meal planning and parent involvement.
The school applied for the grant to help boost its Healthy Living Program.
Under the direction of the principal and school council, parent volunteers plan and prepare a healthy snack for students to enjoy each month.
“Introducing fresh foods into meal planning at an early age in lieu of processed alternatives not only promotes healthy eating, but also maintains long-term individual health,” council chair and project leader Josie Matesa said. “We’ve been providing healthy snacks to students for the last three years through our Healthy Living Program with generous help from community sponsors like Fortinos and Sobeys. This grant helps us to go from offering healthy snacks every other month to providing healthy snacks once a month and ones with a little bit more variety.”
The school’s project began in January and runs until June. To date, students have enjoyed oranges, whole wheat pitas and marble cheese.
Matesa said the project has been a hit with students and parents.
“The response has been good not only from students, but also parents as well. I have anywhere from 15 to 20 people that I can call on to help with planning and preparation, which is nice,” she said, adding volunteers include moms, dads and grandparents. “The students are excited about the project; they look forward to the snacks and they like seeing their moms, dads and grandparents in here helping out.”
Matesa said it’s essential to instil healthy eating habits in children at a young age, so they can carry those habits into adulthood.
“This project also will hopefully get students excited about healthy snacks and the variety of nutritional options available out there and, in turn, inspire them to help out with meal planning and preparation at home,” she said. “It’s ultimately about helping kids to adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their entire lives.”