Kent City — Connecting with local growers, making healthy snacks and growing vegetables are all part of new, highly-engaging nutrition education on the way for elementary students, thanks to a grant from local farmers and their apple farming association, U.S. Apple. Kent City Elementary was one of just five in the nation chosen to receive the $5,000 Apples4Ed award.
To celebrate the grant, students gathered on the playground with area apple farmers and Michigan’s Apple Queen, Sylvia Freeland, Kent City High School junior, to enjoy an apple snack. The students also previewed the nutrition lessons coming their way during the 2023-24 school year from STEM teacher Nicole Andreas:
“We’re going to do healthy eating lessons … and even do cooking lessons with you,” she said to students, who erupted in cheers when she mentioned the opportunity to learn how to cook.
STEM Teacher Billie Freeland said that making the connection between nutritious foods and local farms is part of KCE’s plan to encourage healthy eating.
“Even though they live in the community, (students) don’t always know what grows here. And they don’t get the chance to meet the growers and we really wanted to make that connection today,” she said.
Freeland said that the school has not had nutrition education since a partnership with the YMCA ended several years ago. With funding from the Apples4Ed grant, she and Andreas will be able to encourage healthy eating in a community that doesn’t have ready access to fresh food.
“We don’t have a grocery store in town, so there’s no real source of fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said.
Part of the grant funds will be used to purchase seeds and plants for KCE’s new greenhouse, slated to be completed during the summer of 2023. When the seeds turn into fresh fruits and veggies, KCE students will learn how to turn them into healthy snacks so that next time they go to the grocery store, they’ll know what to buy.
And when they buy an apple with the “local” label, they may just remember the apple farmer they met at school.
“The growers really support the community, so we really appreciate that,” said Freeland.