Hall Elementary students learn about healthy snacks at nutrition fair
by: John Klicker, Kayla Cook, 12, a fifth-grader at Hall Elementary School, smells a stalk of fennel during the Farm to Market nutrition fair on Friday, March 9.

Standing before a group of fifth-graders at Hall Elementary School, Delores Tesky tells the kids to keep a lid on it.

'This is my best friend,' the chef says as she places a lid on top of a blender filled with blueberries, low-fat raspberry yogurt and low-fat milk.

Before she turns on the blender, she says that without the lid to contain them, the blender's contents will shower her and the students. Then they'd never get to sample the nutritious smoothie she's making.

'That's a lot better for you than having something like a milkshake that has a lot of fat in it,' Tesky says as she passes out servings of the smoothie in small plastic cups.

How to make healthy snacks was one of several things students learned at Hall on Friday, March 9. The school, at 2505 N.E. 23rd St., hosted 'Farm to Market,' a nutrition fair in the school gym, which was organized by Sodexho, the Gresham-Barlow School District's food services vendor, as well as the Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation, a private not-for-profit group.

The gym was filled with various displays about nutrition and agriculture, as well as helium balloons in the shapes of various fruits and vegetables. A poster urged youngsters to drink more milk, especially since 15 percent of their bodies' growth takes place when they become teenagers.

Sodexho also provided a free buffet-style lunch of fruits, vegetables and other healthy products to students in the school cafeteria.

In addition to learning about nutritious snacking, groups of students took turns listening to presentations on eating fruits and vegetables; where food is grown in Oregon; and what states raise various produce. Among the facts they learned were the following:

• Fennel smells like black licorice.

• Strawberries are unusual because, unlike most fruits, they have their seeds on the outside.

• Because of its rainy climate, Oregon is good for growing berries.

• It's a pretty bad idea to rub your eyes after handling hot peppers. And the smaller the pepper, the hotter it is.

• You can make almost any dish healthier by adding fruits or vegetables. You can put veggies on your pizza slice or strawberries on your cereal, for example.

David A. Short, district manager for Sodexho, said the fair is designed to encourage children to make healthy eating choices.

'If kids have never tried things before, maybe they'll be inclined to,' he says.

The strategy seems to have worked with Kyra Strain, 10, a fifth-grader. After watching Tesky's smoothie-making demonstration, she says she wants to add a new twist to her sister Rianna's fourth birthday party later that day.

'My mom didn't want to have all junk snacks,' she says. 'I can go home and show my mom that you can have fun with healthy stuff.'

Kyra says she wants to show her family Tesky's apple treat, which consists of covering two apple slices with honey and then putting marshmallows between them to create a snack that looks like a grinning mouth.

Fifth-grader Penny Folven, 11, says she likes the idea of nutritional snacking.

'It looked good, and it looked fun,' she says.

The students also learned about the state's various farm products from Cathy McClaughry, an education program assistant with the Oregon Agriculture in the Classroom Foundation.

McClaughry gave students small plastic cylinders with moist bits of cotton inside that served as seedbeds for a kidney bean that would sprout in five days, she says.

Fifth-grader Trenton Bratcher, 10, was duly impressed.

'I didn't know that you could just have a wet piece of cotton, and you put a bean in it, and it will grow,' he said.

His classmate, Adrian Wood, 10, says he'll eventually plant the contents of his cylinder in his yard, but wasn't looking to be part of any 'Jack and the Beanstalk' story.

'I don't want it any taller than me,' he says. 'It's just that it's hard to pick it if it's too far out of my reach.'

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