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Grant funds healthy snack program

Ana Anthony/Daily Dlobe Prairie Elementary students Eric Rivera and Lexi Garcia choose their snacks as school nurse Wendy Donkersloot watches.

WORTHINGTON -- Third-graders at Prairie Elementary had a choice of yogurt, pretzels or an apple during snack time on Wednesday.

"I call dibs on the yogurt," said one student as he eyed the items on the snack cart.

Thanks to a $3,000 one-time grant from Nobles-Rock Community Health Improvement Program (CHIP), school nurse Wendy Donkersloot initiated a five-day healthy snack education for third-grade students.

Paula Bloemendaal of the Nobles-Rock CHIP explained that through the grant is intended to help students make better nutritional choices, especially in consumption of fruits and vegetable.

"They (third-graders) are old enough to make decisions at home about what's being packed for them, yet they're young enough that if you instill that message into them now, they will use that in the future to make healthier choices," Donkersloot explained about the selection of her target group.

The program kicked off Tuesday with Donkersloot visiting the eight third-grade sections, teaching the children about the food groups and portion sizes.

Based on the three food groups she selects each day, students are able to choose a snack from among the three options available. Wednesday's snack menu included dairy, grains and fruits.

Donkersloot said the snacks are sample-sized to allow students to see the variety of healthy options available instead of "Cheetos and Nutty Bars."

"Everyone knows that unhealthy snacks are convenient," she added. "They're pre-packaged and cheaper, but we have to set an example in the school system about what is healthy. We have to teach our kids now."

Additionally, Donkersloot explained children only need a single serving of snacks. The third-graders learned how much of a certain snack is equivalent to one serving by checking the nutrition labels.

"Along with teaching what to eat, we need to teach how much to eat," Donkersloot said.

As always, parents play a major role in modeling the consumption of healthy snacks. Students in all grades will receive a snack list to take home.

"Research shows that a healthier diet helps a child focus better," Donkersloot said. "We want them to enjoy the snacks and tell their parents that these are the snacks they want to bring to school."