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Kids’ healthy eating habits have a snowball effect

HealthPartners inspires families, communities to eat fruits and veggies through the School Challenge

February 27, 2017

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If there’s one thing that families participating in our School Challenge have learned, it’s that peer pressure can be a good thing when it comes to veggies.

“My children now love jicama, which I had no idea existed,” Tricia Humphrey said. Her children James, 10, and Katherine, 7, have taken part in the Try for 5 School Challenge at St. Croix Catholic School in Stillwater for a few years now. “When you present veggies at home, it’s different than at school. When kids see their peers eating them, they figure they can’t be so bad!”

kids posing with a carrot mascot

Jicama (pronounced HEE-cama) is the starchy root of a native Mexican vine. It is one of five vegetables kids have a chance to taste when the School Challenge kicks off at their school. The three-week challenge starts with students taking part in a veggie vote – rating what they try. After that they are tasked to Try for Five each day. The goal is to build the habit of eating at least five fruits and vegetables per day all the time.

More than 22,000 students take part in the School Challenge each year. It’s run by three HealthPartners community programs: yumPower, PowerUp and BearPower. The program – now in its sixth year – is free to schools and students. It began with 32 schools. Today, it includes 61.

It is kids that we’re trying to get excited about fruits and vegetables. But more often than not when students bring home their Power Pack magazine of recipes, the whole family gets involved. The program makes it easy for parents and kids to try new ways of incorporating five fruits and vegetables into meal time.

“It makes a difference that my girls are given the chance to pick out recipes themselves. They have even made some of the recipes on their own, like the granola,” Laura Peters said. Her daughters Mackenzie, 10, and Courtney, 8, have taken part in the School Challenge at St. Croix Catholic School and Rutherford Elementary School in Stillwater. “We’ve done the cauliflower crust, too. Like the veggie vote the girls get to do in school, we decide as a family if each new recipe is a winner or not so much.”

Healthy eating habits are also spilling over into the church associated with St. Croix Catholic School. “The school nurse has a lot of ideas on how to PowerUp the church, too,” Peters said. “At the annual Fun Fest, we’re trying to have healthier options for the booths. For the cake walk this year, we made some fruit baskets in addition to the sweets.”

The School Challenge is a win for school administrators, too. They earn wellness dollars based on student participation. That cash can be used for supplies to help boost better eating habits and activity levels.

Children in a school auditorium during a PowerUp school challenge event

Find out if your child’s school is taking part in the School Challenge. And check out some of our nutritious, delicious and kid-friendly recipes.

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