Three Hazleton Area Schools receive grants for fresh fruits and vegetables

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WEST HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Three schools in the Hazleton Area School District recently received grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The funding provides fresh fruit and vegetables to students.

“I think districts need to take advantage of it because you definitely do see students experiencing good growth from it in their fruits and vegetables,” Hazleton Area School District Food Service Director Barbara Farley said.

It’s called the fresh fruit and vegetable program, promoted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, to help provide healthy eating options for students in elementary school.

“It’s aimed towards teaching children about healthy eating and it’s basically to help address some of the childhood obesity issues in the nation right now,” Farley said.

Farley tells Eyewitness News schools in the district have been receiving grants since 2003. This year, West Hazleton, McAdoo Kelayers, and Maple Manor Elementary/Middle Schools were each awarded $45,000 – $50,000 in grants.

“For example, in Hazleton, we do offer it three days a week, in the classroom. Teachers do a little lesson plan as they hand it out. We have a vendor that we work with that actually does all the portioning for us and gets it all ready for the students,” Farley said.

But with schools in the district operating on a phased reopening plan, a waiver now allows parents to take home the fruit and vegetables along with their school breakfast and lunch.

Students from kindergarten to 6th grade are offered fresh fruits and vegetables three times out of the week. Now that can include anything from apples, even tomatoes, and also some pineapple. But, that also includes some unique fruit such as star fruit and kiwi.

“You can actually see the differences as the children get older. In the high schools, they start asking for those things: ‘can we have kiwi, can we have blood oranges?’ Or different fruits and vegetables that they might have tried when they were younger,” Farley said.

Farley says poverty levels, accessibility to fruits and vegetables, and the student population are all factors when districts apply for the grant.

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