West Elementary students celebrate healthy eating with strawberries provided by Farm to Table

Strawberry yogurt parfait - the desserts served (Amy Leonard for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Just in time for the Strawberry Festival, the students at West Elementary School were served a special treat during their lunchtime on Thursday. Fresh strawberries were the star of the menu in the cafeteria, much to the students’ delight.

In an effort to encourage youngsters to try fresh, healthier foods, the Farm to Table program provides opportunities for students and their families to make educated food choices.

West Elementary School Assistant Principal Tommy Duke spoke of how the program has impacted his students.

“We are appreciative for Jeremy Calvert providing the strawberries for us. We are thankful for the Farm to Schools program for opening our students’ eyes to eat fresh fruit, to get out and have the initiative to grow their own. It’s gone hand in hand with what Ms. Hayes, our sponsor at West Elementary, is doing with our outdoor classroom. They meet every week and have 30-40 students that participate in growing their own produce and trying to eat healthy. It’s important to establish those habits early on. That’s important for our students here at West.”

As the line of sixth grade students formed in the lunch lines, eyes brightened at the sight of the strawberry treats.

“Those look so good!”

“I have strawberries growing at my house!”

“Can I have two of them?”

Agriplex Executive Director Rachel Dawsey enthusiastically shared about the program.

“The North Alabama Agriplex received funding this year from the Alabama Specialty Crop Block Grant and one of our proposals was to help promote the Alabama Farm to School program. Our Cullman schools have been buying lots of produce from our local farmers. We just wanted to make sure that the parents, the families and the community knew that. The schools were already sourcing strawberries from Jeremy Calvert’s farm, and we wanted to celebrate it. We worked with the lunchroom staff and Sabrina Yarbrough, the director. She and her staff made these beautiful strawberry yogurt parfaits. We get to hand out stickers and have a strawberry plant to show the lifecycle of the strawberry.”

Looking to fall’s harvest, Dawsey said, “We’re hoping to come back in the fall for Apple Crunch Day that Sweet Grown Alabama, Farm to School and Alfa Insurance sponsor. The idea is to get local apples that we will get at Steele Orchard. Each child will get a local apple that they all bite into together at the same time as all the other schools in Alabama that are participating in Apple Crunch Day.”

The students were the first of many Cullman residents to reap the rewards of a bountiful harvest of Cullman’s famous strawberries.

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