Federal program to brings exotic produce to two local schools

According to a 2009 study conducted by Ohio State University's College of Education and Human Ecology, 46 percent of the vegetables consumed by children are fried potatoes and only 8 percent are dark green or orange.

But when school begins this fall, students at Baltimore Highlands Elementary School will again find it easier to eat more and different varieties of fruits and vegetables during the school year.

For the second time, the school in the southwestern portion of the county will be among eight Baltimore County schools participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program during the 2011-2012 school year, according to a release from Baltimore County Public Schools.

Riverview Elementary School, also in the southwestern district, joins Baltimore Highlands in a group that includes Deep Creek, Dundalk, Logan, Mars Estates, Sandalwood and Sussex elementary school, according to the release.

Dundalk and Logan are in the southeastern portion of the county.

Deep Creek, Mars Estates, Sandalwood and Sussex are in the Essex area.

"Students love trying foods they have never eaten before," said Karen Levenstein, director of the Baltimore County Public Schools Office of Food and Nutrition Services, in the release.

"And our principals welcome the program in our schools," Levenstein said in the release. "We know that students with healthier eating habits will be students who learn more."

The program will deliver samples of different types of produce —such as sugar snap peas and blueberries or more exotic choices such as papayas and jicama — to all classes at the school up to twice a week, the release states.

Students will receive individually-portioned samples to try, while getting to view a whole version of the different produce items, according to the release.

The program was first offered in two county elementary schools during the 2008-2009 school year, the release states.

Baltimore Highlands Elementary began offering the program during the 2010-2011 school year, said Diana Spencer, a spokeswoman for the county schools.

In addition to Baltimore Highlands, the program was offered at Johnnycake, Lansdowne, Berkshire, Dogwood, Elmwood and Pleasant Plains elementary schools last year, Spencer said.

The 2009 study by researchers at Ohio State examined data collected from 6,513 children, ages 2-18, according to an article at http://www.sciencedaily.com.

Among the findings was that children ages 2-5 consumed more fruit and juice than those ages 6-11 and 12-18 and those ages 12-18 ate more vegetables.

Reporter Lauren Fulbright contributed to this story.

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