MASON CITY, Iowa - Nutrition is important for all of us, but especially for growing youngsters.
Before 2nd graders at Harding Elementary were let out for the weekend, they got to try locally grown potatoes and tomatoes from Ron Rahut's farm near Fertile, as part of an extension of the school's 'picking a better snack' initiative.
Now, they're looking to take the program bigger, with the school partnering with CG Public Health in adding more locally grown produce and foods to school menus.
Thor Walsh and Lillian Wise are two students that got to hear from Rahut. They're on the hunt for a healthier classroom snack, with their classmates recently taste testing different fruits and vegetables.
"One of them was cantaloupe, the other was zucchini, and the last one was raspberries."
Katelyn Nicholson is a dietician for CG Public Health, which has been working with the school and a few other school districts in North Iowa as part of the USDA's Farm to School Grant program, which is encouraging and improving more districts' access to locally sourced food.
"We've gotten some greenhouses going at all four districts, more school gardens, more taste tests in the cafeterias and classrooms of different local vegetables and fruits in the area.
"Mostly produce we'll start with. It would be great in the future if we could source with dairy and meats. Usually you start with produce, it's a little easier. They have to put out bids to different sellers and producers and pick based on pricing, sizing, things like that."
To stay true to healthy eating, she's asking kids to adopt the goal of 'eating the rainbow' daily.
"There's different benefits to each colour, and usually each colouring compound in each fruit or vegetable is what provides the nutritional benefits."
If any district is interested in participating in the program, contact CG Public Health at 641-421-9342.