School of the Year

School of the Year
School of the Year

            The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) named the Technology Academy at Pettit Park Elementary School the 2017 Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program School of the Year. Pettit Park is the second Indiana school to receive this award since it began in the 2015-2016 school year.

            According to the IDOE, this award recognizes schools that provide outstanding service to students through regular access to fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as nutrition education. Pettit Park received a banner and a framed certificate from the Indiana Department of Education during a presentation at the school on May 24th. Pettit Park also received a monetary award to purchase nutrition education and promotional materials.

            IDOE School Nutrition Specialist Suzette Hartmann commended Pettit Park for its outstanding efforts to promote healthy eating habits through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

            “It is nice to see that at Pettit Park, the teachers and food service staff are working together to make this Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program a success,” Mrs. Hartmann explained. “Their efforts keep students focused and ready to learn.”

            Pettit Park is among 127 Indiana elementary schools that received the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable grant from the IDOE in the 2016-2017 school year. The goal of the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is to improve children’s overall diet and create healthier eating habits by providing healthier food choices, expanding the variety of fruits and vegetables children experience, and increasing children’s fruit and vegetable consumption.

            Elementary schools participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program receive between $50 and $75 per student for the school year. With these funds, schools purchase additional fresh fruits and vegetables to serve free to students during the school day.

            Schools in the program have the flexibility to develop their own implementation plan, choose the type of produce, number of days a week, and times during the day to provide free fresh fruits and vegetables to students, though the produce must be served outside of the normal time frames for the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Program.

            At Pettit Park, teacher Heather McAninch and food service staff member Connie Chapman work together to implement the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. Mrs. McAninch noted that in Indiana it is not typical for teachers to assist with the implementation, but she and Mrs. Chapman are passionate about the program. She believes that is why the Pettit Park Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program stood out to the IDOE.

            “We really enjoy introducing our Pettit Park students to healthy food choices,” Mrs. McAninch said. “And the students have come to look forward to the diverse fruits and vegetables we serve them.”

            Pettit Park students have tried everything from dragon fruit to cactus. The students especially love sweet red peppers, sliced beets, sweet potatoes, and all varieties of apples and oranges.

            Mrs. McAninch and Mrs. Chapman focus on fruits and vegetables that are in season to make their grant dollars go further, so the students have fresh fruits or vegetables daily.

            “Some schools offer the fruits and vegetables two or three days a week, but we felt it was important to provide our students a fresh fruit or vegetable snack every day,” Mrs. McAninch added.

            Pettit Park Principal Kelly Wright felt honored that Pettit Park was selected for the IDOE award, but she is not surprised.

            “This program has been a passion of ours at Pettit Park,” Mrs. Wright explained. “Mrs. McAninch and Mrs. Chapman have dedicated a great deal of time to developing a successful program. Our teachers are on board and help expose our students to a variety of healthy options, while they also incorporate nutrition education into their classrooms.”

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