Let Them Eat Fruit

On Wednesday of last week, my sixth grade interdisciplinary team fed our sixth graders pizza for lunch in a mini-celebration of the end of our school year.  It’s kind of annual tradition around our building — a fun way to smile together for a little while before walking away for summer break.

But things were a little different this year:  In an effort to healthy-up the experience, my team decided to ditch the spread of Doritos, Fritos, and Taquitos that served as artery clogging pizza lunch side dishes.  Instead, we had our parents send in heaping trays of grapes and bananas and watermelon and apples and strawberries.


At first, we were a bit worried that we’d have a ton of leftovers.  “Are they REALLY going to eat this stuff?” we wondered.  “It’s not exactly party food.”  But our fears were unfounded.  Not only did our kids EAT the fruit that we provided, they went back for SECOND and THIRD helpings!  At one point, a mini-brawl broke out over the last piece of watermelon.  How cool is that?!

The whole experience was a bit of a revelation for me.  For the better part of my solid-food-consuming-career, I’ve tied “celebrations” to “crappy food choices.”  Got a birthday to celebrate?  Slam down a cupcake or twelve.  Survive a miserably long week at work?  Nothing a Little Debbie Snack can’t fix.  Big sporting event against your hated rival?  Drown a pile of tortilla chips in half a brick of melted Velveeta!


And for the better part of my feeding-kids-at-school-parties career, I figured my students would be happiest when they were stuffing themselves with junk — but based on my experience last week, that’s just not true.  None of my students mentioned the missing chips and dips — and no one left their plates fruitless.  Every child found something that they could enjoy without polluting their bodies with empty calories.

The lesson for schools is really a simple one, isn’t it?  

In a world where one in five kids between the ages of 6-19 is obese , eating habits HAVE to change.  And given the fact that kids spend HUGE amounts of time in our schools, the food choices they make while in our buildings are important.  While local and national efforts to control the kinds of foods available to students during school hours — including Obama’s Smart Snacks in Schools program — are great starting points for driving change, most don’t limit the kinds of foods that can be served at team functions like our pizza party.

But I can.  And you can.  And WE should.  Promoting healthy eating habits and introducing kids to junk food alternatives that actually taste good ain’t all that hard to do.  It’s a simple change that every teacher can make that might just change a few lives.

Any of this make sense?


Related Radical Reads:

Introducing Our Newest Cause: #sugarkills

Related categories:
  • Tom D

    As the parent of a son with a

    As the parent of a son with a life-threatening dairy allergy, I was shocked at how large a role food played in school when he started kindergarten. He was always a good sport having to have his own snack when classmates were eating the cupcakes or donuts brought in honor of someone’s b-day, but as your team shows, healthy choices often have the benefit of being safe for students with the most common food allergies.  And that allows them to be full participants in the celebrations.

    Double win!

  • Carolyn Hirst-Loucks

    Kids come through

    Great example of providing the right thing, in this case nutritious choices, and students just finding it matter of course,  falling in line and liking the outcome.  Adults providing a great model for the students to follow when they have choices later in life.  Win-win scenario,

  • BillIvey

    even vegetables!

    My advisory group, while they virtually never said “no” to my home-baked vegan sugar cookies, was equally happy with fruit – and even vegetables! Carrot sticks disappeared in no time, and anything that could be dipped in hummus went over well, disappearing before the pita wedges did.

    For cakes, angel food cake with fruit as topping can be absolutely delicious and, while it’s certainly go sugar, it is otherwise healthy and low fat. And if you’re serving primarily healthy snacks, there’s no reason not to periodically include the occasional (vegan!) chocolate cake.

  • jenniferbarnett

    Healthy Thought Food

    Bill – As I read this #fruitpalooza post I couldn’t help but think about how analogous it is to what we are primarily responsible for feeding students. It should be our goal to have a “watermelon brawl” over learning every day! 

    I don’t know if fruit salad will replace the traditional birthday cake (or if it should), but when we are willing to approach special events with new habits, I believe we’re quite likely to find many unexpected, positive results. 

    Food for thought: What other simple changes can every teacher make that could change lives? (I believe I need to munch on some cantaloupe while I consider this.)


    • LaurieKelly

      Green Salad Grown at School

      My students, 100% from disadvantaged homes, always welcome fruit salads over chips, cupcakes, candy or pizza. I’m guessing that’s not only because fruit is sweet and colorful, but also because they see more of those less healthful snacks at home. Fruit is normally expensive and doesn’t keep as long.

      One year, my 3rd graders grew salad vegetables in a protected garden outdoors. The veggies meant even more to them than store-bought greens when we made a salad and ate them with a variety of dressings provided.

  • SusanGraham

    Fruitful lessons!

    One of the “big events” in my 7th grade FACS class was fruit day. Fruit is beautiful and I always made sure it was displayed as a still life. It taste good. Some of my students had never eaten any fruit other than apples, oranges and bananas, because fruit is also expensive. But fruit isn’t just fruit salad, it’s a whole curriculum. We talked biology, chemistry, geography, economics, history.

    • Play fiind the seeds!
    • Find out why Dole cuts a hole in all the pineapples!
    • If navel oranges have belly buttons and no seeds, where do baby navel orange trees come from?
    • Why does orange, lemon or pineapple juice stop the browning process in cut apples, pears and bananas? 
    • Why do we eat strawberries come from from South America in January?
    • What was the Columbian Exchange and what does it have to do with apples and pears?
    • Which kinds of fruit should not be washed before storing?
    • What happens if you freeze fruit? Why? What happens if you dry it?
    • Why is fresh fruit more expensive than dried or canned fruit?
    • Why would you sniff a cantaloupe’s navel?

    But you know, this is what I got to thinking about:

    We often presume that kids do not have very discriminating taste. But maybe their taste is limited  because we simply don’t offer them choices. Or maybe when we do offer choices it comes as an “alternative” from the “normal” or “regular” choice. Or maybe we attach so much socal and cultural baggage to food that we ask them to make a life style statement by their choice of snacks.

    And now that made me wonder:

    Wouldn’t it be fun to have students reading fiction make notes of characters eating habits. What an interesting discussion of how authors might use  food choices in the character development. Man, I wish I had thought of this years ago! I could have made it an ongoing post-it note board