As schools in Idaho are cutting back on funding for textbooks, transportation, and some sports programs, some school programs are receiving additional support from the federal government to the tune of approximately $1.295 million. Schools around Idaho - 78 of them to be exact - have received money that officials say will help students receive more fruits and vegetables in their diets during the next school year.
The money is part of the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) effort to provide schools and students with more options and variety for mid-day snacks. Under the requirements of the grants awarded to local schools, students will receive mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks. The point of the program, according to USDA's website, is to encourage children to choose healthy snack food options and introduce them to fruits and vegetables they might otherwise not have been able to obtain. The Fresh Fruits and Vegetable Program "can be an important catalyst for change in our efforts to combat childhood obesity by helping children learn more healthful eating habits. The program has been successful in introducing school children to a variety of produce that they otherwise might not have the opportunity to sample," says the USDA website.
Snacks are passed out to children in hallways, cafeterias, or may even be delivered to classrooms. Schools are not allowed to give away produce purchased under this program during breakfast or lunch times. The Idaho State Department of Education said on its blog that through the program, students will be able to eat exotic fruits and vegetables, such as such as kiwi, jicama, rambutan, and dragon fruit.
This is the second time schools around the state have received federal money with specific directives attached. Earlier this spring 18 schools in Idaho received federal dollars for kitchen-related expenditures. The schools used the money provided by the federal government to purchase new equipment, such as mixers, ovens, and tables, for kitchens and cafeterias. Schools received a combined $120,000 from the federal government for upgrades. Under both programs, Idaho schools had to apply with federal agencies to receive money.
Schools districts must use the money provided through the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. To see the complete list of schools that will have been selected to participate in the program, go to the Idaho State Department of Education's blog here.