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Chicago kids learn about vegetables from school gardens -- and rules that ban their produce from school kitchens

October 20, 2010

Kids and school gardens make a healthy combination, except in Chicago where the homegrown produce currently being harvested has been banned from school cafeterias.

"In a district that touts its use of some local produce in the lunchroom, the most local of all remains forbidden fruit," the Chicago Tribune reports. Tomatoes and herbs harvested by children apparently don’t meet the school district's rules, unlike Denver where school kitchens welcome fresh produce grown on site, according to "Most school garden produce is forbidden fruit in CPS lunchrooms."

Garden-based learning, studies show, helps kids become more interested in vegetables and inspires them to try different ones. Less than 10% of high school students eat the daily recommended servings of fruit (at least two) and vegetables (at least three), according to the CDC's "State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2009." Of course, adults didn't fare much better, with just 14% getting their five servings a day.

Increasing the amount of produce in your diet doesn't mean increasing your food budget. Check out "30 ways in 30 days to stretch your fruit and vegetable budget."

And here are tips, courtesy of UC San Francisco Benioff Chldren's Hospital on "Encouraging Your Child to Eat Fruits and Vegetables." Among the advice: "Children can be very picky. It may take as many as 10 to 15 tries with a new food before a child is willing to accept it." Wow, 10 to 15 tries? Better start early in broccoli season.

Note to parents: Those chewy fake vegetables don't count. Note this story from the Los Angeles Times: "Stick with real fruit: Despite their claims otherwise, fruit leather, roll-ups and strips don't contain all the nutrients of whole fruit and often have added sugars and fats."

And don't bother hiding them in food such as chocolate cake either. That could backfire, as this Los Angeles Times story notes: "Picky eaters, sneaky parents."

—Mary Forgione / For the Los Angeles Times

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