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U of I Extension Promote Healthy Eating In Area Schools

Lunch time at Riverton Elementary School usually consists of healthy options. (WRSP)

The U of I extension office is working to promote healthy eating habits. They've teamed up with one local school to teach students about making healthy eating choices.

Lunch time at Riverton Elementary School usually consists of healthy options.

"Chicken nuggets, sweet potatoes and fruit," said fourth grader Amelia Gaddis, who enjoys eating healthy. "My favorite vegetable is carrots. I don't know why. I just think they're really crunchy. They have a really good crunch"

Eating fruits and vegetables hasn't always been this easy. Some kids at Riverton Elementary school, just like others, prefer junk food.

"I kind of like ice cream and chocolate," said third grader Callie Edmonson.

"It taste good, but it's not good for you," said Gaddis.

That's why staff at the U of I Extension is working with schools like Riverton Elementary School to change students’ mindset on what good food is.

"They've done a great job with the program," said Kayla Swaar, educator with the U of I extension. "They came up with fun names like crazy carrots or treetop broccoli. Things of that sort to make it more exciting for them to want to eat the foods"

Since the program's inception, teachers say they've seen dozens of students with positive attitudes towards nutrition. That includes throwing away less food and they're consuming far more fruits and vegetables at lunch.

Students are even rewarded for their behavior.

"If you eat your vegetables in front of a teacher, she'll take a picture of you and you'll get on the slideshow," Callie Edmonson, who is a third grader, said.

"On Friday, if the students were eating their vegetable or whole plates of food, they would get what we call power cards," said assistant principal Brad Polanin. “If they're name was drawn, they get to eat with a celebrity. It may have been me, nurse, student assistance coordinator.”

These are all incentives that promote healthy habits that could carry these students into their adulthood. It provides students with long-lasting health benefits.

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