SAVAGE, Minnesota — If you're having a meal at Hamilton Ridge Elementary in Savage, your first choice is going to be vegetables.
While the location of healthier options in the lunch line is part of the reason, it's also because the Prior Lake-Savage School District uses lunchtime as a learning opportunity.
One of the first lessons: tasting the rainbow isn't just for Skittles.
"So I read a book, and it said, like eat the rainbow so you can like kind of, it's not like eating a bunch of junk food in every color. You can try to, like, maybe eat a bunch of fruits and vegetables in a bunch of different colors," said Mackenzie Varpness, a 5th-grade student at Hamilton Ridge.
Kids in summer programs can join the Garden Club where they learn the ins and out's of "Farm to Lunch Table."
They're then equipped with the knowledge to share how fueling up on these healthy foods can help in school.
"It kind of comes to you quicker because like, you're more focused on that once you're healthier and stuff," said Gabrielle Morrissey, a 4th-grader. "Like, I can just go on with the day more."
"Like you feel better," added Hailey Demars, also in 5th grade.
But of course, there are going to be some naysayers. What elementary school wouldn't have them? That's why there's "Try It Tuesday."
"Every Tuesday, they have a like something new that kids might not ever have, or they just make it, so it's you can have it, it's like a 'try it,'" said Demars.
Radishes made the "Try It" list and a new favorite of the kids we spoke with: microgreens. "They're like pea pods, but like when they just sprout," explained Arden Welter, 4th grade.
The school also uses different cooking techniques and spices to amplify the flavor profile of the vegetables, making them more palatable for the students.
While peer pressure is usually something to be avoided, the district thinks kids can make healthier choices when you apply that pressure in the lunchroom. "I think that it's good for students to eat school meals because there's a little bit of that positive peer pressure where if you know your friends are all eating a new vegetable, then maybe you're a little more inclined to try it. Because it doesn't seem that scary if you're watching everybody else eat it and saying that it's good, then maybe you're inclined to try it," said Emily Malone, director of child nutrition for Prior-Lake Savage Area Schools.
She's also upping the education factor with the "Know Your Farmer" initiative. "We have right on the edge of Prior Lake Savage area schools there's a lot of agriculture. So we have a lot of partners that will drop products that they picked this morning."
Some of our farmers come into the cafeterias to discuss growing their foods. The hope is that the mealtime lessons will turn into lifelong eating habits.
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