Often times making the choice to eat healthy isn’t the easiest thing to convince people to do.

In fact, according to Watonwan County SNAP-Ed Educator Beth Labenz says that most children and adults aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables.

“Most children, and adults for that matter, just aren't getting enough fruits and veggies,” says Labenz. Labenz cited data from the Minnesota Department of Education, Minnesota Department of Healthy, Minnesota Department of Human Services, and Minnesota Department of Public Safety, 2010 which states.

“Among all children ages 1-18, 60 percent had usual intakes of fruit below their recommended level, and 93 percent consumed fewer vegetables than the recommended 1 1/2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables.” Because of this Labenz who educates people mainly children and low-income families about proper nutrition knew that she had to come up with a creative way to teach children about the importance of fruits and vegetables.

During the class which is called “ Go Wild”  Labenz said that she teaches the third graders at Northside Elementary School about the different food groups.

This class is all about eating fruits and vegetables of all the colors of the rainbow. It is a 45-minute class, one time a month class that focuses on one color for each month. Students learn the nutrition behind fruits and vegetables with that color and most importantly get to taste test fruits and vegetables in class. The goal of the class is to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables not only in the school lunch line but also at home. Although the children may be skeptical about the foods in the food group at first they often enjoy once they try it.

“In class, we discuss all the great phytonutrients and fiber that are found in fruits and veggies. Last month when we talked about the color red, we also discussed how great lycopene was for our bodies because it helps prevent heart disease, then everyone got to try red peppers and raspberries. I try to make the class fun and not intimidating, says Labenz. I always ask each student to try whatever we are tasting that month but explain that it takes us 10-15 times of trying something to decide if we like it or not. We may not like it right away but it is important to at least try it. Normally, most kids are asking for more and I rarely have any leftovers,” said Labenz.

Because lack of exercise is another cause of obesity Labenz said that she also discusses moving more and the importance of exercise. They also play games that get kids on their feet and moving more as well.

Abby Grove, the school food service director, also tries to highlight the same color that Labenz discussed that week in the lunch line and the kids are sent home with a homework challenge to try a new fruit and/or veggie at home of that same color that we discussed in class

Grove said that it’s important to collaborate with other professionals like Labenz who are passionate about nutrition and children “I feel it's important to collaborate with other people who have passion for food and children. Beth and I work wonderfully together and she is such a positive and upbeat person that I know the kids enjoy her!”

Grove also said that the program is important because it gives the students a chance to try different fruits and vegetables. “Go Wild gives the students an opportunity to try fruits and vegetables that they might not otherwise be able to try. Fruits and vegetables can be very expensive,” said Grove.

Labenz taught the class for the first time in Watonwan County last year at Butterfield-Odin where she already made an impact on a students food decisions. “Last year, was the first year I taught the class in Butterfield and I had a parent tell me in the community that her son was asking for eggplant at the grocery store and she couldn't figure out why until she saw his homework challenge from Go Wild. She said they made eggplant lasagna at home and he loved it,” Said Labenz.

Be sure to follow all the news from Northside Elementary School by turning to the weekly print edition of the Plaindealer.