The Rogers County Health Department (RCHD) partnered with Claremont Elementary School 4th grade on a nutrition project this school year, targeting fruit and vegetable consumption for students in Rogers County. With Oklahoma having the next to lowest rate of fruit and vegetable consumption, RCHD seized the opportunity to improve the community’s awareness of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption. They set goals to broaden the students’ knowledge and willingness to try different varieties of fruits and vegetables; increase awareness of the health benefits of fruit and vegetable consumption; and increase students’ fruit and vegetable intake.

The health department has partnered with several other county schools in the past several years. Claremont Elementary was chosen for this year and next. Each month staff from RCHD visited the fourth grade classrooms, providing nutritional education and fun activities, taste-testing of various fruits and vegetables in appropriate serving sizes, healthy recipes, positive reinforcement, and encouragement. The educational materials provided to the school were also displayed and available in the health department lobby for clients and community members. During the visits, students were awarded non-monetary “Zebra Cash” as a reward for tasting the food of the month. At the end of each project year, the health department provides an opportunity for the students to redeem their “Zebra Cash” for healthy incentives such as jump ropes, balls, kites, and flying disks.

In addition to the monthly visits, during March Nutrition Month RCHD also hosted a “Real Food Grows” poster contest to increase enthusiasm for the students participating in the project. Every student who participated received an extra “Zebra Cash” dollar and a certificate. Two students from each of the two fourth grade classes were chosen for their depiction of the theme with the most creative and interesting poster. Community volunteer judges were Melynda Stone, Volunteers For Youth/TSET Health Living Program, Jenny Allen, RCB Bank/RoCo Fit Mentor, and Larry Bergner, Rogers County Health Department Director. The winners pictured are Houstin Smith, Hayden Geranen, Alex Luna, and Meiah Dawson. These four received an additional incentive promoting gardening. The school displayed all the posters in the hall for the month of March and we are proud of all of them.

The teachers commented that the students were excited about the program and looked forward to RCHD visits. Some of the benefits of the program is the exposure to new fruits and veggies the students might never have tried. And it is interesting to hear the students talk about trying the foods and recipes at home. The interaction between students and health department staff is always a positive experience for both. We are excited to continue the partnership with Claremont Elementary again next school year with hopes of helping them sustain the program.

Rogers County Health Department is focused on improving community health and this is one of the many of the projects they are involved in to accomplish their goals. If you are interested in more information or want to know about services they offer, please visit their website at http://rogers.health.ok.gov, follow and share their Facebook page “Rogers County OK Health Department,” or call 918-341-3166.