February’s Pick A Better Snack lessons have focused on the sometimes spicy, other times sweet, and always nutritious pepper. Pick A Better Snack is the nutrition education curriculum that I teach to all of Oelwein’s Knd-3rd grade students. Every month when the students see my in the hallway wearing an apron and navigating the sea of children and school supplies with my super snack cart, they scream out in excitement, “Snack Day!”. Some ask, “What are we trying today, Miss Molly?”. My favorite reaction to my mere presence came last week from one of the first grade students at Parkside Elementary School. As my cart wheeled by her, she took a dramatic whiff of the air and declared, “I don’t know what we are trying today, but it smells amazing!”. Now, the baby bell peppers that we were about to try in her class were sealed away in a plastic bag. The only thing this student was smelling was her positive perception.
Positive perception is something I have struggled with all winter. Short, grey days living alone in a rural community have given way to some serious couch potato time and also a more negative attitude. Self-doubt and sloth took over my January. The good news is that February first was Imbolc, the halfway point between winter solstice and the first day of spring. We are heading toward warmth, light, and school gardens. My positive perception is screaming out, “I think I feel spring!”.
In January, I had taught about and tried mango with the students. They learned that mango is a tropical fruit which can only grow in a place that is warm all year round; this means that mangos do not grow in Iowa. I was so excited to introduce peppers to the students this month because we will be growing peppers in the school garden this summer, and many of them will get to eat those peppers when they return to school in August. Peppers are a food we can grow in Iowa when it is warm! Peppers can be a local food and local foods are good for us, our families, our communities, farmers, and the earth.
If you live in Oelwein or are passing through town, stop into Fareway and check out our signs in the produce section. Thank you to Fareway for working with me to get these signs in the store. I know that these signs will help both the students and parents identify and purchase each month’s Pick A Better Snack fruit or vegetable. Lastly, you all are invited to help plant, cultivate, and harvest peppers at the Oelwein school garden this spring! TOGETHER, we grow healthy kids!