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Some JCPS Students Will Get Fresh Fruit and Veggies For Free

Jefferson County Public School students at 29 schools will get a fresh afternoon snack several days per week this school year.Last year, 35 JCPS schools were able to take part, but number of schools applying from low income, rural areas has increased with the program’s popularity, said Andrea Wright, the coordinator of nutrition initiatives for JCPS.The schools are among 137 schools in Kentucky taking part in the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program—an effort to combat childhood obesity. About 21 percent of Kentucky children are considered to be obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control.The program provides fresh, whole foods to students who may not have the opportunity to get them outside of school because of a lack of access or economic situations, said Deanna Tackett, the director of school and community nutrition for the Kentucky Department of Education.“It’s so nice for a child to be handed a peach and have to be explained why there is fuzz on it because most children, especially in free and reduced schools, have never seen a fresh peach,” she said.Only Kentucky schools with at least 87 percent of students qualifying for free and reduced meal programs were eligible for the grant funding this year, Tackett said.The entire state received $2.91 million in Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program funds, which is enough to allocate $51.50 per student at participating schools, according to a statement from the Kentucky Department of Education.The funds percolating to schools is enough to offer a fresh afternoon snack to students three times a week, Wright said.And they are benefiting from it, she added.  She said teachers report that students who get the afternoon snack are more able to stay focused throughout afternoon lessons.For a majority of the students, fresh food is a new thing.  Many of the students that attend the qualifying schools in the district live in “food deserts,” Wright said.  According to the United Sates Department of Agriculture, food deserts are considered to be low-income metro areas where at least 33 percent of the residents are further than a mile away from the nearest supermarket or grocery store.Here is a map of area census tracts considered to be food deserts by the USDA.  The food deserts are in green.

For students living in these areas, they may never have an opportunity outside of school to taste fresh kiw or a peach.“It's been a great program," Wright said.  "I just wish we could do it for everybody, even the high schoolers, middle schoolers."Here is a list of schools in Jefferson County that will be taking part in the program:

  • Atkinson Academy
  • Breckinridge-Franklin
  • Byck Elementary
  • Camp Taylor
  • Cane Run Elementary
  • Cochran Elementary
  • Crums Lane
  • Dixie Elementary
  • Engelhard Elementary
  • Foster Traditional
  • Gilmore Lane
  • Gutermuth Elementary
  • Hazelwood Elementary
  • Indian Trail Elementary
  • Kenwood Elementary
  • King Elementary
  • Layne Elementary
  • Maupin Elementary
  • McFerran Preparatory Academy
  • Mill Creek Elementary
  • Minors Lane Elementary
  • Portland Elementary
  • Price Elementary
  • Roosevelt Perry Elementary
  • Rutherford Elementary
  • Slaughter Elementary
  • Watson Lane Elementary
  • Wheatley Elementary
  • Young Elementary

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.