Here’s how to create a simple volunteer program that helps more kids enjoy fruit with school meals.
I admit: I occasionally rant. Every once in a while, I like to get right up on a soapbox and have at it (one of my most popular blog posts is Soccer Mom Soapbox, after all).
While I prefer to call it “therapeutic” and “consciousness raising”, some people see it as complaining. And every once in a while, someone on my Facebook page will tell me to stop whining and do something.
At the start of the school year, I was at my son’s elementary school one morning during breakfast. They serve fresh fruit every morning, usually apples or oranges. As I sat there with my son, I noticed that while a lot of kids took fruit, hardly any of them ate it. The reason seemed pretty obvious: Peeling an orange is hard work, especially when you’re six. And most of the kids are in some stage of losing or growing their front teeth, not ideal for biting into a hard apple.
So I watched the fruit go straight into the garbage. And I got irritated.
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Then I switched gears. I approached the cafeteria manager and (very politely) asked her about the fruit. Was it possible to serve sliced apples and oranges instead? No, she said she didn’t have time — and any leftover sliced fruit on the serving line would have to be trashed. I understood. But what if, I asked, someone sliced the kids’ fruit for them once they had taken it? And what if I organized it myself — and it didn’t create any extra work for her or the cafeteria monitors?
And with that, the Fruit Ninjas were born.
The Fruit Ninja Program is school wellness program that consists of a group of parents at my son’s school. We take turns circulating around the cafeteria in the mornings, asking kids if they’d like to have their fruit sliced. We sign up for shifts of 1-2 parents each morning, and we use a separate room off the cafeteria to cut the fruit (we wear foodservice-grade gloves and deliver the cut-up fruit to the kids in paper trays).
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The students love it. The first morning of our program, I looked around the cafeteria and saw kids eating oranges instead of throwing them away. When bananas are served, we open or slice them by request too (some kids like sandwiching them between mini pancakes). And the morning we sliced fresh pears, a little boy came up to me and said he loved his pear—the first one he’d ever eaten.
What makes this successful? Parents willing to donate a half-hour of their time in the morning. And a principal and staff who care about wellness and are willing to try something new.
No, I won’t stop ranting. Because sometimes, it feels good. But turning a reaction into an action—that feels way, way better.[clickToTweet tweet=”How to start a ‘Fruit Ninja’ program at school:” quote=”How to start a ‘Fruit Ninja’ program at school:”]