Sitting at a classroom table while platters of food were passed around, 4-year-old Jayda Lee plopped a scoop of zucchini and turkey casserole on the plate before her. She took another scoop when a tray of peaches came around. A scoop of spinach followed as chefs from the San Antonio Food Bank introduced nutritious dishes to the young students.
Across the table, Jayda’s classmate passed on each round of food. He stuck with just the bread.
“At the end of the year, he will be eating and enjoying healthy meals,” Pre-K 4 SA CEO Sarah Baray predicted.
Pre-K 4 SA is teaming up with the Food Bank in a quest to instill healthy eating habits in young children.
“We believe we can change the eating habits of San Antonio through our children,” Baray said at an event announcing the partnership held at the Pre-K 4 SA North Education Center.
Under the three-year, $2.3 million contract, the Food Bank will provide nutritional breakfast, lunch and snacks every school day for the full-day program. It also will offer health and nutrition classes to the students’ families.
The goal is to teach families how to replicate the recipes at home using inexpensive foods available at any grocery store. And by eating family-style at school using ladles that provide the recommended serving sizes, children will learn how to serve themselves while tasting new, healthy foods.
Pre-K students are offered a variety of healthy food Wednesday.
© Tom Reel /Staff Photographer
District 8 City Councilman Manny Pelaez lauded the partnership as another tool in the city’s efforts to tackle San Antonio’s high rates of obesity and diabetes.
“With partners like Pre-K 4 SA helping to instill in small children this idea that nutrition is just as important as other things in life, and with partners like S.A. Food Bank teaching families that in San Antonio you have options that are healthy, we are going to go a long way,” Pelaez said before taking a seat next to Jayda, who served him a scoop of spinach on his plate.
“There is no child in San Antonio who shouldn’t have access to the kind of services we offer here at Pre-K 4 SA,” Pelaez said.
Only 2,000 of the city’s 4-year-olds are enrolled in Pre-K 4 SA, but Baray said the program’s goal is to implement a pre-kindergarten through second grade model that would include the nutritional partnership.
Pre-K 4 SA, a city-funded program voted on by voters in 2012, serves as a model for innovative early education initiatives and also uses grants to implement them in other schools, she said.
Food Bank CEO Eric Cooper said he has been inspired by city efforts to curb the health crisis. The Food Bank is also helping the quest by using its gardens to teach kids about growing fruits and vegetables and using them in the kitchen.
“We all need to be doing that all the time to make sure that we’re doing what’s best for our community, and we’re just privileged to be apart of it,” Cooper said. “The partnership is incredibly important because it’s about the future, our kids.”
Krista Torralva covers several school districts and public universities in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | Krista.Torralva@express-news.net | Twitter: @KMTorralva