Color Your Plate program piques young palates in Lanesborough lunchroom


LANESBOROUGH -- "OK, who hasn't tried a Brussels sprout yet?" lunchroom server Karen Kelley asked a group of kindergartners sitting in the Lanesborough Elementary School cafeteria.

A bunch of little hands went up. Instead of making a face or saying, "Yuck," kindergartner Brayden Lampro reached out and took one.

"Mmm," he said as he snacked on the small, leafy bud from the cabbage family.

His classmates eagerly tried the vegetable -- new to them -- too.

Kathy Larson, who has been the school nurse at Lanesborough Elementary for 21 years, said moments like that have been happening every day for nearly the whole month of March at the school. Staff and students have been participating in a challenge called Color Your Plate.

The premise is that eating five or more servings of colorful fruits and vegetables every day is vital to leading a healthy lifestyle. Deeply colored produce tends to contain a range of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, phyto-chemicals and antioxidants the body needs to maintain good health and energy levels.

The challenge was taken up first by staff through the school's Wellness at Work program and offered by Berkshire Health Systems. Larson then proposed the idea to the school's cafeteria staff to promote Color Your Plate to students. Eventually, the whole school took part in the challenge.

Larson said each teacher found ways to incorporate fruits and veggies into classroom instruction. Sixth-graders, for example, got to play with food -- literally -- by turning apples and anise stalks into sculptures of snails and birds.

The Lanesborough PTO pitched in funds to buy fruits and vegetables not normally seen on lunch trays, like mangoes, spaghetti squash and kale.

Each day on the morning announcements, a new color of produce was introduced and children could try to guess what kinds of fruits and vegetables of that color would be served for lunch.

"Kale chips were huge. The kids loved them," said Anita Calderwood, the lunchroom cashier.

Kindergarten paraprofessional Shirley Bailly said mangoes were also popular. Cafeteria staff are now working to send home recipes and food preparation ideas to parents.

As part of the Color Your Plate campaign finale, the cafeteria served "rainbow kabobs," skewers of pineapple, grapes, watermelon and other fruit.

"I never had this before," kindergartner Maxwell Banker said. "This is good."

Color Your Plate ...

Each color grouping of fruits and vegetables contain its own special benefits.

Blue/purple: Foods like black currants, blueberries, eggplant, purple carrots and purple grapes contain antioxidants and anti-aging properties.

Green: Green apples, Brussels sprouts, honeydew melon, cucumbers, broccoli and other green produce are packed with antioxidants and vitamins.

Yellow/orange: Carrots, apricots, mangoes, pineapples, yellow peppers and other orange and deep yellow-colored fruits and vegetables are known to contain nutrients that aid vision and boost immunity.

White/tan/brown: Garlic, bananas, jicama, mushrooms and parsnips are among foods known to promote heart health and reduce the risk of cancer.

Red: Fruits and vegetables like red apples, beets, red cabbage, cranberries, raspberries and tomatoes contain nutrients that also support heart health, vision and immunity.

To reach Jenn Smith:,
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