BALTIMORE (June 17, 2011)—The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has awarded $2,938,000 in federal funds to selected Maryland schools through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funded program. In an effort to reduce childhood obesity and encourage children to develop healthy eating habits early in life, the funds provide fresh fruits and vegetables to children enrolled in participating schools statewide.
The FFVP provides a variety of free fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the school day to introduce fresh produce as a healthy snack option for children. Fruits and vegetables may only be served during school hours and cannot be served with the School Breakfast Program or the National School Lunch Program meals. This provides an opportunity for teachers to incorporate nutrition lessons with the serving of fresh produce.
The FFVP targets schools with a high percentage of low-income students because their students are likely to have reduced access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Schools awarded funds through the program must already participate in the National School Lunch Program. Every child enrolled in a participating school will be offered the fruit and vegetable snacks regardless of income.
As part of their applications, schools submitted detailed plans to obtain and distribute the fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as to publicize and promote the program to students and their families. Many schools developed highly creative methods for delivering the produce that will engage the children, including farmer's market-style kiosks, food preparation demonstrations by trained chefs, and elaborate kick-off weeks with costumes, prizes, and games.
Last year, MSDE approved 93 schools to participate in the program. With the addition of more than $500,000 in new funds, the department is pleased to provide funds to 136 schools for the 2011-2012 school year. A list of participating schools can be found at http://somd.me/jhVIFx.
The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 (the Farm Bill) allocated funds for the FFVP in schools nationwide. The current funding level for the FFVP provides reimbursement for fresh fruits and vegetables to a selected number of schools at a rate of $50 per child over the school year. This program is seen as an important catalyst for change in efforts to combat childhood obesity.
Source: Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE)