PCC Natural Markets and Seattle Area Public Teach Benefits of Eating 5 a Day

SEATTLE - Community-based organic and natural foods retailer PCC Natural Markets (PCC) and Seattle and Highline Public Schools Nutrition Services programs are joining forces this fall to encourage kids to add more fruits and vegetables to their diets.

The pilot program, which began today to coincide with National 5 a Day Month, introduces students in grades K through five at nine public schools to a variety of produce items, some of which they may have never seen or tasted before. Before sampling the fruits and vegetables, teachers and PCC staff will discuss the benefits of healthy eating and explain why it's important for kids to vote on the items they sample. The winning fruits and vegetables will be offered during school lunches in November. The taste tests will be replicated in additional elementary schools by Seattle and Highline district staff, and will guide lunch offerings in those schools in November, as well.

"Both Highline and Seattle School Districts are concerned about the rising rates of childhood obesity and its effect on student health," said Kirsten Frandsen, nutrition education coordinator who works with both districts under the STEPS to Health King County program. "Partnering with community organizations to expand nutrition education capacity while making effective use of our resources is a top goal."

PCC Natural Markets is donating food and staff for the pilot, and said it considered the partnership an extension of the company's Kid Picks program started in March 2004. Kid Picks is a taste-testing program that invites kids to judge natural food products sold by PCC, voting with a simple "Like" or "Don't like."

Items "approved" by two-thirds of the judges are flagged as "kid-tested and approved" in PCC's eight locations, and listed on the PCC Web site. Since the Kid Picks program began, more than 5,000 kid judges have voted on more than 1,130 products; about 57 percent of the products become "Kid Picks."

"It has been very rewarding to see even picky eaters change their minds about foods they think they won't like, after taking part in a Kid Picks event," said Sara Walsh, manager of the Kid Picks program. "We [wanted] to bring a form of Kid Picks into our public schools, and to take part in helping kids feel empowered to make decisions that positively influence their health."
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