Healthy appetite for change is 'Veggie Pledge' goal
Fairfield schoolchildren may soon by asking their parents for cauliflower instead of cookies.
That's the goal of Veggie Pledge, a townwide initiative that aims to encourage everyone to eat more vegetables.
Children may be the leaders in the healthy- eating initiative, however, since they will be learning the benefits of a Veggie of the Month from now through June. Free samples are distributed the first week of the month at local schools, and two weeks later, a dish featuring the highlighted item is featured on the menu.
October's veggie is pumpkin and the special dish, served across the district Thursday of last week, was pumpkin bean soup.
Reviews of the concoction were mixed at Sherman Elementary School. There were more thumbs down than thumbs up among students, but some youngsters that said they could get used to such fare.
"I kinda like it. It's OK," said Mick Morrison, a fourth-grader.
"It's pretty good," said fifth-grade student Jack Adams. "It tastes like a bunch of different spices." Jack said his parents encourage him to try different things.
As for those who disliked the soup, he said many of his fellow students judged it based on looks and "don't give it a fair chance."
Madelyn McGowan, a fourth-grader, said the pumpkin bean recipe "doesn't taste like real soup," but admitted she usually sticks with white clam chowder.
Fifth-grader Jack Bell said the pumpkin bean soup was the worst soup he ever had. "Can you tell the school board to go back to tomato soup?" he said.
Next month's featured vegetable is spaghetti squash, which Joann Fitzpatrick, manager of food services for the school district, believes will be better received. "It's sweeter," she said.
Ana Cutaia Leonard, director of elementary education, said that children may initially not like a new vegetable, "but if we continue to provide them an opportunity to try new vegetables in different recipes they may acquire the taste for new vegetables."
The Veggie of the Month program is a joint effort of the Fairfield schools' food service program and the PTA Council's Fuel for Learning Partnership Committee, and is an element in the townwide Veggie Pledge initiative. Fuel for Learning Chairwoman Michelle McCabe said that the goal is to get everyone to eat more vegetables by integrating vegetables into the daily routine. Approximately 75 individuals and families have signed on to the pledges at the initiative's website, www.veggiepledge.org.
"Pledges can and should be something fun, creative and, most important, achievable for each person," said McCabe. "It could be as simple as, eat more vegetables, but I think it may have a better chance of sticking if it's something that is actionable. For some people, the thought of trying something new would make the pledge fun to fulfill. For others, they would be happy to find a few vegetables that their kids like and will eat. For still others, the thought of trying to grow vegetables or visiting farm stands will be a successful impetus."
PTA groups, the Fairfield Woods Branch Library, entire families, and individual parents and children have pledged to eat more vegetables. Various pledges on the website chronicle visits to local farms, increased consumption of juices made from vegetables, and parents who promise to add new vegetables to a family's menu.
One 7-year-old said she "plans to eat every vegetable my mom serves me," while a 9 year-old has pledged to eat "more spinach." The North Stratfield PTA promises a veggie platter at its meetings.
Busy schedules often prevent some parents to say they have not had time to incorporate vegetables into meals as often as they might like. McCabe said it can often be a challenge to cook vegetables in an appetizing fashion. It doesn't help that they're sometimes more expensive than other, less-healthful foods.
"Our bodies are hard-wired to enjoy sweet and fatty tastes," she said. "Vegetables are not a go-to food for humans." However, she believes the Veggie of the Month program in the schools might influence important dietary changes.
"In a school it's a different dynamic," she said. "They'll try things in the school environment that they won't try at home."
Nine-year-old Samantha Galluzzo, an Osborn Hill Elementary School student, welcomes the veggie initiative, as she believe healthy students make better students. She recalled a recent trip to an amusement park where she indulged in fried dough, which caused her "stomach (to) hurt because it was not my regular diet," she said.
Sara Jannott, a PTA co-president at Sherman Elementary School, hopes the entire community will embrace the Veggie Pledge.
As an adult, she said, "We need to set a good example."