McPolin Elementary students can look forward to tasty treats |

McPolin Elementary students can look forward to tasty treats

The primary mission of any good school is filling students’ heads with as much knowledge as possible.

But now McPolin Elementary School will better be able to filling their stomachs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently awarded the school with a grant for more than $18,000 to give students healthy snacks throughout the day.

Elizabeth Strasser, director of child nutrition services for the Park City School District, said McPolin received the money because more than 50 percent of its students are on reduced or free lunch, which is the main criterion for the grant.

The money should be enough to give students fruits or vegetables throughout all of the upcoming school year.

"We are going to do it twice a week as a mid-morning snack or an afternoon snack," Strasser said. "We’re going to work with the teachers to kind of see what works best for them. How I would like it would be a student just running down to the kitchen and grabbing it, then taking it back to the classroom."

Strasser said she has already contacted several produce centers in Salt Lake City and asked them if they want to supply the food. She is hoping the fruits and vegetables can come pre-cut to reduce the workload on the school’s kitchen staff, but said the district has just one other request.

"We asked them to give us fruits and vegetables you don’t normally see in the lunchroom or in the grocery store," she said. "It can open up the kids’ eyes to so many more fruits and vegetables. It gets them interested in wanting to eat more fruits and vegetables."

Getting students to try a variety of foods has been one of Strasser’s primary goals in recent years. She said that can have a large effect on developing lifelong healthy eating habits.

"When they are just exposed to the same things, maybe they like the carrots or broccoli or mandarin oranges, that’s fine," she said, "but when they get to try new things, their palates expand. And the more they like different foods, the more they’re willing to try."

But, as any parent can surely attest, getting students to test their taste buds is much easier said than done.

"Our biggest challenge is what kids will actually eat," Strasser said. "I can give them jicama every day, but they’re never going to eat it. So it’s a fine line."

As well as the snacks, McPolin will also be feeding students plenty of knowledge. Strasser said students will learn about where the foods come from and also about their nutritional values.

"If they don’t understand why they eat that food, it doesn’t work," she said. "They don’t know why it’s good for them and why they should try it. I mean, they know they should eat healthy, but we need to make sure they know why they should eat healthy."