Middletown tries free all-day fruit pilot program for students

MIDDLETOWN — A trip to Australia and a visit to local schools there gave the leader of this city’s school system an idea she hopes will bear the fruit of healthier and more successful students.

Last summer Middletown Schools Superintendent Deborah Houser traveled to Australia to study schools.

There she saw public schools making fresh fruit available to Aussie students throughout the school day and heard from school officials on how it helped keep their students healthier and learn better while in class.

The advantages are two-fold, said Houser recently.

Learning is impossible on an empty stomach, and healthy food leads to healthier minds.

“Healthy eating is a catalyst for healthy minds, and when children are hungry, they cannot learn,” she said.

The city schools are now experimenting with a scaled-down version of the Australian program at Rosa Parks Elementary where fourth-grade classrooms have access to fresh fruit throughout the school day.

The fruit, which is available in classrooms, is provided by Middletown Schools’ food vendor Sodexo, which already provides every student in the district with a healthy breakfast and lunch each day of the school year, at no cost to the student.

Due to Middletown Schools city wide average household income of school families, all students at its 10 schools are eligible under federal program guidelines for free and reduced school meals if school parents sign up for the food program.

School officials said the pilot program also falls in line with the district and Sodexo’s mission of teaching students about healthy eating habits.

Also joining in the new nutrition program experiment is Ohio State University’s Family and Consumer Science Education program, which is working with staff at Rosa Parks on teaching how to make healthy food choices, how to read food labels, food safety, and the importance of physical activity.

“During the school day, we want to educate our students about the importance of making healthy eating decisions. Providing them with healthy eating options helps us achieve that goal,” said Houser.

“Providing students with access to fresh fruit at any time during the school day helps create healthy eating habits for eating fresh fruit all the time.”

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