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In Action: The 2014 Veggie Brigade

Cucumbers, spinach, kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, carrots, yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes. The array of fruits and vegetables looked tasty, and many of the children in Central Elementary School’s cafeteria tried one or two of them, and some came back for more.

“Yummy,” said one youngster who munched on a carrot.

This was the second year the Veggie Brigade has brought nutrition education to local schools, including Natural Bridge Elementary, Mountain View Elementary and Fairfield Elementary. The Veggie Brigade sponsored by the Healthy Community Action Team (HCAT), a coalition comprising Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee University, Rockbridge Area Community Services, the YMCA, Let’s Move! Lexington and Rockbridge County Schools.

Julie Sklar, a first-year student at W&L from Denver, Colorado, and a Bonner Scholar (a leadership development program for students with an interest in service and civic engagement), has helped pass out fruits and vegetables at each school visit and rewarded those who tried a sample with a backpack key ring festooned with colorful beads. As she approached each table, she asked, “What would you like to try?” For one boy, the cherry tomato was too messy, but a strawberry was acceptable. “We’re trying to encourage the children to incorporate a wide variety of foods into their diet, and the beads help remind them to try and eat lots of colorful foods.”

Sklar noted that most students had no trouble eating the foods most familiar to them, but need a little nudging to taste some of the others “I had one young boy who was not at all interested in the kiwi fruit–he had never seen one before–but he decided to try it and really liked it,” she said.

Melody Tennant, the Veggie Brigade project coordinator from Lets Move! who was also handing out fruits and vegetables, said, “The kids seem much more willing to try more foods than they did last time. The message we’re trying to get across is definitely sinking in.”

The Veggie Brigade will return in the spring to visit additional schools in Lexington and Buena Vista.