School receives $10,000 grant for nutrition

HOUSTON Rodriguez is the only school in Texas to win a $10,000 Love Your Veggies™ Nationwide School Lunch Campaign grant, sponsored by the makers of Hidden Valley® Salad Dressings in collaboration with the School Nutrition Foundation and Produce for Better Health Foundation. The $10,000 nutrition grant will help support Rodriguez's school-wide wellness initiative "SNACK" (Students Need Active Change Know-How).

Rodriguez is the first elementary school in Texas to incorporate a full-time kitchen and gardening classroom where every student has seed-to-plate experience. The school piloted this unique program this year through a partnership with Recipe for Success. Rodriguez and Recipe for Success joined forces to show that schools and community organizations are serious about addressing the growing epidemic of obesity among school age children. This relationship, in addition to the numerous changes made through the SNACK initiative, has Rodriguez moving toward its goal of becoming a model school of health. With the new grant, Rodriguez will continue to increase students' access to -- and consumption of -- fresh fruits and vegetables.

Fifty-one Love Your Veggies™ grants were awarded to schools from 47 states and Washington D.C. Rodriguez is the only school in Texas to receive the funding. The winning grant proposals were chosen based on need, innovation, greatest likelihood of sustainable impact on the students served, and potential for community involvement. Rodriguez plans to provide cooking classes for parents to show them how to modify not only their home menus but also their lifestyles.

"The Love Your Veggies grant will allow us to expose our students to a variety of fresh fruits and veggies," said Rodriguez Culinary Coordinator Kellie Karavias. "By procuring seasonal organic produce from local farmers we will be able to incorporate it into our culinary classroom. Through cooking and tasting experiences we will introduce our 936 students and their families to a range of seasonal fruits and vegetables."

Every week students will be introduced to a "mystery fruit or vegetable"; the students will have to guess the mystery produce using their five senses and a series of questions. On Fridays, the school will offer a "Lettuce Eat Well" vegetable stand where students can pick up produce and low-fat ranch dressing for the school's "Five-A-Day Fridays," where the entire school stops whatever is going on and devours a fruit or vegetable together. The grant will also aid with fieldtrips to tie together real world and classroom experiences. Finally, the school will be able to purchase a long awaited "veggie slicer" for the cafeteria manager so she can slice high volumes of fresh produce to serve to students daily.

"This Hidden Valley grant money will allow us to move a step closer to realizing our health, nutrition, and academic goals here at Sylvan Rodriguez Elementary," said Principal Elena Martinez-Buley. "We are committed to improving student learning at Rodriguez by addressing the whole child. We know that improved health and nutrition is fundamental to improving our student learning."

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