Students at 166 Wisconsin schools will get fresh fruit and vegetables, not a minute too soon.
Approximately 57,000 students in Wisconsin’s poorest schools will be eating the healthful snacks at least three times a week. The Badger State will get just under $3 million in grants (pdf), of the $150 million allocated nationwide, from the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.
Patrick Gasper is spokesman for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. “One thing to point out is that the fresh fruits and vegetables are available to all the students in the school, not just the students who are in poverty. But the determining factor for which schools receive the grant money is based on poverty levels in the school.”
Gasper says schools with the highest percentage of students eligible for subsidized school meals are selected for this year’s grants. In Wisconsin, elementary schools chosen for the 2011-12 school-year grants had 53 percent or more qualified students. Gasper says these snacks are in addition to the meal at lunchtime.
Elsewhere, a new report shows almost two-thirds of Wisconsin adults are overweight or obese. Gasper says this program could instill lifelong healthful eating habits. “Absolutely,” he says, “it starts them on a healthy habit of seeking those types of products out later on.”
The Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports 64 percent of adults in the Badger State are either overweight or obese — increasing the risk of 20 major diseases, including heart disease and type two adult diabetes.
Gasper says the DPI hopes to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program in years to come as long as funding is still available. Wisconsin joined the program in 2006 with just 25 participating schools.