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Homegrown Happiness


The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Grant to two JUSD elementary schools, Ina Arbuckle and Mission Bell. Eligibility was determined by socioeconomic need, and the fresh produce is served to students during the school day, three times per week.

apples and cantaloupe“It really gives them that opportunity to get more fresh fruits and vegetables in their bodies. It is all about health and wellness,” shared Missy Poirier, Director of Nutrition Services. “To get them to taste and try new things.”

At Mission Bell, produce is served during recess. Recently, the selection included apples, oranges, cantaloupe smiles, and grapes. 6th-grader Brittany enjoys the pre-lunch snack because the fruit and vegetables always “feel like they’re freshly picked.” 

“It’s good for you because then you won’t be really hungry,” explained Brittany. “Because usually, your head would hurt sometimes because you haven’t eaten in a while. Some kids don’t eat breakfast so it’s good for the people who don’t eat breakfast.”

“We offer the breakfast in the morning,” shared Claudia Almanza, Cafeteria Manager at Mission Bell. “But maybe some don’t get here in time, so around 10 o’clock when they have their recess, they do take advantage to come and get something to feel good, to have their tummies full.”

nutrition services staff with Farmer Bob and his daughterMs. Poirier prefers to purchase produce from local growers, believing it is important that kids know what is growing in and around their community. Produce from local farms also tastes better because it is fresher than something found in a grocery store. 

One local farmer, Bob Knight, operates a farm in Redlands where he grows oranges and other citrus fruits along with blackberries, tomatoes, and 40 different kinds of vegetables. With the help of his daughter, Farmer Bob not only supplies produce for the grant but also JUSD breakfasts and lunches.

“Every week, in our little truck, we bring oranges to Jurupa for your breakfasts, for your lunches, and lately we’ve been growing all sorts of other things for you to eat as well,” shared Farmer Bob. “And we found other farmers that are interested in doing the same thing. If we can just connect eaters to farmers directly, you get fresher food, and the farmer can make a living. And we can keep farms in our neighborhood. So it’s really a wonderful thing.”

With the help of farmers like Bob, Ms. Poirier and her Nutrition Services team supply a balanced selection of fruits and vegetables to the two schools. Some of the produce is familiar, like apples and oranges, while other items are new, like Persian cucumbers and Asian pears. 

kid smiling while eating cantaloupe“A lot of times, in the lunch program, you don’t get much variety,” said Farmer Bob. “But when you have a fresh fruit and vegetable grant, it’s like an exploratory world, where suddenly you have access to try all sorts of fruits and vegetables that maybe you’ve never seen before, you’ve never tasted.”

Whether it is a banana or a pluot, kids are loving the healthy snacks. Many return to the cart for seconds and thirds, which is highly encouraged by JUSD staff.

“I equate food with happiness,” said Ms. Almanza. “You’re at the house, with the family, it’s happiness. So when you give these kids food, they feel loved. You’re doing something for them. And I like that. And that’s why they love me.”