Creating Access and Interest
The goal of Healthy Floyd’s Preschool Produce Program is to increase vegetable consumption by Floyd families by providing each preschool family with free, fresh, local produce and easy, enjoyable preparation suggestions.
This program is a true definition of a community coming together to provide the best possible resources for our county’s children. Healthy Floyd coordinates the program and provides funds to buy fresh produce grown by local farms. Plenty! coordinates with Floyd farmers to plant & harvest. Virginia Cooperative Extension offers written resources. Floyd County High School’s Culinary Arts classes pack and deliver the bags. Floyd Farm Bureau Women help with lessons, and Preschool and Head Start teachers at Floyd, Willis and Check Elementary Schools make sure the deliveries make it home.
The effectiveness of the program is measured with a simple survey conducted before and at the end of the program. The post surveys from one school indicated that over a 10 week period, 92% of the preschoolers became more willing to try new foods at home, 83% of the families ate more fruits and vegetables at home, 66% of the preschoolers helped more often with the preparation of snacks and meals, and 50% of the families tried the healthy recipes provided. In addition, 100% of the families would recommend the program to other families!
Willis Elementary School
In November 2012, the Preschool Produce Program began at Willis Elementary School.
In April 2013 the Preschool Produce Program began at Floyd Elementary School.
Check Elementary School
Preschool Produce at Willis Elementary
In November 2012, the Willis Elementary Preschool class celebrated the end of their first season of Preschool Produce with a classroom feast. The feast was prepared by Dawn Barnes from Virginia Cooperative Extension, Katie Van Horn from New River Valley Community Services, volunteer Alice Slusher, along with Karen Day and Alexis Bressler of Plenty! Students participated in making Green Surprise dip using dinosaur kale and chickpeas. They tested the dip with fresh broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. Radish and turnip slices in fun cookie cutter shapes and cubed beets were less familiar, but students gave the treats a thumbs up! Dessert was a selection of pumpkin, squash and chocolate beet mini-muffins, washed down with apple cider.
Kara Neal, preschool teacher, said, “The families have really enjoyed the program and hope to continue in the spring.” Several parents and grandparents were guests at the feast along with Floyd County Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, Lisa Pluska, and Director of Special Education and Student Services, Barry Hollandsworth. Door prizes were given to visitors and copies of the book, Feast for 10, were given to the students, along with full bags of produce for their families to enjoy.
Preschool Produce at Floyd Elementary
In April 2013 the Preschool Produce Program began at Floyd Elementary School. Along with five weekly bags of fresh, local produce, Mrs. Karen Via’s preschool class received weekly nutrition lessons. The children grew salad gardens and participated in tastings of vegetables and fruits. Since the class was repeatedly exposed to some of the same vegetables each week, the children began to eat items they never would have before. For example, many of the children assumed that bell peppers were hot and therefore refused to try them. After multiple tastings of bell peppers many of them began to realize how sweet and delicious they are! In addition, the preschool families were invited to a kick off dinner in which they created yummy soups together using fresh, local produce. Parents and grandparents were given cooking supplies as door prizes. At the end of May, families were also invited to a culminating celebration in which the children helped make a vegetable dip and again enjoyed fresh tastings of vegetables.
This is the second Floyd County preschool class to benefit from the Preschool Produce Program. Last fall, Mrs. Kara Neal’s class based at Willis Elementary piloted the program. After parents reported that their children were more willing to try new foods and eat more fruits and vegetables, private donors funded spring produce shares for these families.