April 27, 2014 at 9:13 AM ET
One Baltimore elementary school has found a clever way of getting its students to eat more fresh produce — by hiding them in plain sight.
Edgewood Elementary School has turned one of its classrooms into a smoothie bar where students can select a variety of fruits and vegetables and watch them disappear into icy blended drinks.
“Today we open up our Super Duper Smooth Energy Center. You kids ready to get some energy?” Principal Kim Sollers recently asked a group of students.
The kids in the first batch of taste-testers got to pick from an ingredient menu that included spinach, carrots and cucumbers, along with strawberries, pineapples, bananas and chia seeds. Everything then got blended with almond milk or coconut water.
The school gets the fruits and vegetables used for the smoothies through a federally-funded program for low-income schools like Edgewood, where 91 percent of the students are eligible for free or reduced meals. Through that program, fruits and vegetables are served in the classroom outside of regular meal times twice a week. Sollers thought that adding a smoothie bar would give students another fun way to eat fresh produce.
The school also received a generous donation from NutriBullet, which contributed 10 blenders for the project along with other supplies including bowls, cutting boards and about 120 reusable cups. The company also sent nutritionist Sarah Lefkowitz to the school to help launch the project.
“The kids are able to incorporate foods that are going to give them fiber, potassium, vitamin C and antioxidants which are really important because you don't find antioxidants in these processed foods that kids are existing off of,” Lefkowitz said.
TODAY’s Lester Holt talked to some of the students after the first sip of their fruity concoction. Some liked what they tasted. One girl described her drink as “shake-y.” But another student noted her smoothie tasted “different.”
“I'm not used to tasting carrots,” she said.
School officials say that's part of the idea behind the project. They want children to be exposed to healthy foods they may not be currently eating.
“I would love to customize,” one boy said.
Another student agreed, “because this aint’ working,” she told Holt.
Sollers said she hopes that the students will experiment and find what healthy combination of tastes will best suit them.
“Teachers will work together to find recipes and also set parameters,” she said. “If the vegetable of the day is spinach, there may be a listing that indicates you must have spinach in your smoothie in addition to whatever two fruits you decide to add.”