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UC CalFresh Nutrition Educators Lupe Ramirez and Cristina Luquin prepare radish samples for students at Tahoe Valley Elementary during October's Harvest of the Month.

Community Partners Bring "Farm-to-School" Nutrition Program To South Tahoe Elemenary Schools

(South Lake Tahoe, CA) - It is often said, “It takes a village to raise a child.” In South Lake Tahoe, the same could be said about keeping kids healthy. October is National Farm to School Month, and in South Lake Tahoe, the UC Cooperative Extension CalFresh nutrition education program has partnered with Barton Health and Lake Tahoe Unified School District to implement Harvest of the Month, a statewide initiative that motivates students to make healthier choices and brings fresh, in season produce to all South Lake Tahoe elementary schools.

“We are excited to team up with Barton Health and Lake Tahoe Unified School District on Harvest of the Month,” says Hector Ochoa, the UC Cooperative Extension Central Sierra CalFresh Nutrition Education Program Manager. “This program gives our students a variety of hands-on opportunities to explore, taste, and learn about the importance of healthy eating and being active every day.”  

For Harvest of the Month, the Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s Food Services staff choose one fruit or vegetable to highlight each month on the school lunch menu. Each fruit or vegetable is in season, California grown, and cost effective. In the same month, the school district hosts a schoolwide tasting where all students sample the selected produce item and vote on whether they would like to see it on the menu again.

Also aligned with the fruit or vegetable of the month are instructional materials that teachers can use to teach their students about the selected produce item and ways to stay active. The lessons incorporate a variety of subjects and touch on Common Core and California Content Standards. This enables classroom lessons to be reinforced in the lunchroom and encourages student participation in healthy habits.

It should come as no surprise that most students are not eating the fruits and vegetables they need. California’s public health research shows that less than one third of students are getting the recommended amount of fruit and less than one tenth of students are getting the recommended number of vegetables. Obesity is on the rise which can have long term consequences, including Type II diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

“Harvest of the Month is more than just telling children to eat more fruits and vegetables or be more active,” says Natasha Schue, Barton Health’s Community Outreach Coordinator. “We are instilling in our youngest students healthy habits they will have for a lifetime. This helps improve their health as well as the health of our community.”

All elementary schools - Bijou Community School, Lake Tahoe Environmental Science Magnet School, Sierra House Elementary School, and Tahoe Valley Elementary School - are participating in Harvest of the Month. October’s vegetable is radish, which supports heart health and memory function.

Harvest of the Month is a nutrition initiative developed with funding from the USDA SNAP, known in California as CalFresh (formerly food stamps). These institutions are equal opportunity providers and employers. CalFresh provides assistance to low-income households and can help buy nutritious foods for better health. For CalFresh information and to learn how to become a community partner with Harvest of the Month, call 877.847.3663.