Trying new or unfamiliar foods can be scary for kids. Through “Pick A Better Snack” lessons (PABS) youth are introduced to new (and sometimes familiar) fruits and vegetables in a safe environment.
Each month, nutrition educators visit elementary classrooms, sharing samples of fruits and vegetables. Nutrition educators show students that fruits and vegetables are easy, tasty snacks. Students learn where to find fruits and vegetables, how they grow, and how to eat them in a variety of ways.
Each lesson provides a health connection, fun facts and a physical activity along with a fresh taste test. They always discuss the many ways to prepare each food, with the easiest being fresh!
PABS is offered to grades K-3 in the Postville Community School District, a rural district of 700 students who qualify for free lunch every day. This year students tasted pears, sweet potatoes, kiwi, chickpeas, pineapple, sugar snap peas, yogurt and spinach.
Becky Rea is the nutrition educator for the program. Becky brings her skills as a K-12 Youth Coordinator for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach to the classroom. She shared the story of a girl we will call Mary.
“My goal each month is have each student try the food. I always make a point to let them know that it’s ok if they don’t like it. Mary has always been very apprehensive of trying new foods and often is in tears through the lesson. I always make sure to include her in the taste test but respect her space and don’t force her to ever try the food,” said Becky.
“During February’s pineapple lesson, Mary was engaged and even tried it on her own!” said Becky. “She had never tried pineapple before and really didn’t care for it after tasting it. But, by creating a safe environment and forming connections with the students she felt comfortable enough to give a new food a taste.”
“Mary has been a joy to watch. From seeing her in tears every time I came in to trying a new food without any prompting, has been so rewarding for me! This might seem like a small victory but it’s definitely one I’ll never forget!” said Becky.
The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) uses SNAP-Ed funds (food assistance) to provide nutrition education— Pick a better snack—in schools where the majority of students qualify for free or reduced-price meals. The goal of the program is to help low-income children eat more fruits and vegetables.
Allamakee County Extension, a partner of IDPH, sends a nutrition educator into the Postville Community School District each month. In 2017-2018, thirteen classrooms were reached and 230 students participated in monthly nutrition lessons — and it’s making a difference in what they eat!