The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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April 7, 2013

Waseca schools make healthy eating user friendly

WASECA — Cafeteria staff at Waseca schools have come up with a nifty way to boost meal nutrition.

Garden bars, the innovation of Food Nutrition Services Director Jason Forshee, take the salad bar concept a kid-friendly step further.

“Kids have always had the opportunity for fruits and vegetables, but what this does is put it all in one place. So instead of taking one orange, they can take a lot of different things,” Forshee said.

The garden bar offerings include two to three fruits and a like number of vegetables each day.

But here’s the key: They’re typically cut up and ready to nosh, which may be a small convenience to an adult but makes a vital difference to grade school and intermediate school children.

“Before, kids may have been turned off by an orange because they’d have to peel it,” Forshee said. “This just makes it more user friendly.”

The garden bars at Hartley Elementary and Waseca Intermediate are free, and there’s no limit to how much a student can take thanks to a grant Forshee received from the Let’s Move Salad Bars 2 Schools program that’s funded by public donations.

Forshee said the enticing garden bars especially help fill nutritional voids for students whose homes are lacking in fruits and vegetables.

The garden bars have only been in place a couple of weeks, and Forshee said he’s eager to start introducing students to more esoteric offerings such as jicama, papaya and star fruit.

He said kids’ favorites by far have been cut-up pineapple, apples and watermelon, while on the veggie front broccoli and cauliflower hold sway — with dip, of course, virtually always ranch dressing.

“Ranch has become the new catsup.”

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