Golden Hill’s Harvest Days encourage healthy food choices

Students leaning on a table smell, feel and taste freeze-dried apple slices
During October’s Harvest Day, Golden Hill students tried a different kind of chip: freeze dried apple slices.

As a school community, Golden Hill Elementary is always working to improve the health and wellness of students and staff. That involves inviting students to try new foods through the monthly Harvest Day program.

On the second Tuesday of each month, right after they eat their lunch, students will stop at a table set outside the school cafeteria to try a new vegetable or fruit presented to them by Gina Knudsen, a registered dietitian from ShopRite.

Recognizing that our liking and disliking of specific foods and drinks can be decided before we ever taste them, Mrs. Knudsen’s engages the students’ every sense in their new food experience.

Nutritionist holds a bowl of freeze dried apple slices and speaks with students standing around a table who are trying them out“What does it feel like?” Mrs. Knudsen will ask around the table. “What does it smell like? What does it sound like when you bite into it? Do you like it? What does the taste remind you of?”

Students keep track of their responses to different foods by applying stickers to a Food Passport put together by the fourth and fifth-grade students who make up the Junior Wellness Team.

“We have been celebrating Harvest Day for close to 10 years now,” Mrs. Knudsen said. “The program has been really successful, and we know it has encouraged students to engage in cooking classes after school, and in food preparation at home.”

Students leaning on a table smell, feel and taste freeze-dried apple slices

Harvest Day is but one of several initiatives developed over the years by the Building Leadership Team. It all began with a wellness survey in 2010 which revealed that students and staff alike were eager for more opportunities to improve their health and well-being.

“We looked at things like nutrition habits and physical activity and created a health and wellness index,” said School Nurse Marlene Lysack. “That made us eligible to apply for a grant that helped fund our multi-purpose trail, as well as the salad bar in the school’s kitchen.”

Golden Hill’s health and wellness programs have also benefited from partnerships with the Orange County Health Department and ShopRite.