South Dakota Harvest of the Month Program
- Need: To encourage children to make healthy eating choices through learning and tasting.
- Intervention: Brief, fun, and informative presentations for children on over 42 different fruits and vegetables.
- Results: Participants are exposed to new foods and show more interest in healthy eating.
Harvest of the Month (HOM) is an adaptable, easy-to-use program that gets kids excited about eating fruits and vegetables and has them asking for more! Through a short presentation and produce sampling, children learn about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables every day.
Since being brought from California to South Dakota in 2008, South Dakota Harvest of the Month has been working to expand healthy eating choices for toddlers and elementary school students in communities across the state.
The program can be offered in:
- Individual classrooms (PreK-5th grade)
- Health classes
- PE classes
- School assemblies
- Afterschool programs
- Home visits
“The long-term goal is to impact food choices at home, by surrounding the youth with nutritional experiences. If a kid chooses cabbage or other healthy food instead of junk food, we have been successful,” states Kristie Maher, Executive Director of the South Dakota Discovery Center.
View this seven-minute video of a Pierre teacher and his gym class:
The HOM elementary school program includes a brief presentation focused on an individual fruit or vegetable and explains the food's:
- Peak seasons
- Vitamins and minerals
- Supermarket tips (choosing fresh, ripe produce)
The presentation is followed by a quick food tasting.
The HOM program for in-class preschool children includes:
- Fun activities involving the featured food
- Lessons on how eating the featured food helps bodies grow healthy and strong
- An easy taste test
- A fun and simple taste test extension that could be used for snack time
The home-visit program includes all of the above and:
- Easy ways for childcare providers and parents/guardians to make purees for toddlers with the featured food
The HOM Out-of-School learning plans include:
- A short review of the nutrition concepts learned at school or an introduction if HOM is not used at school
- A fun and easy snack that the youth can make with the featured food
SD HOM is offered in schools across the state, with participants from 29 South Dakota towns. All Pierre elementary schools take part and, in Pierre alone, the program reaches over 1,200 children each month.
The South Dakota Department of Health's School Height and Weight Report for 2014-2015 showed that the obesity rate declined for elementary school students in Region 6: The percent of students who were overweight or obese went from 36% in 2011-2012 to 31.5% in 2014-2015.
According to a parent of a participating child:
“My son is much more willing to try foods that he previously refused. Also, now if he is given the choice and told that one food is healthier than the other, he will make a conscious choice to pick the healthier food.”
Another parent shares:
“We now always have fresh spinach and black beans at our house. We eat them often. I add parsnips and green chilies to soups and casseroles and sweet potatoes or pumpkin puree to lots of baked items. Never would my family have considered this before HOM!”
One barrier to implementing this program is finding funding sources to purchase the food.
The SD Discovery Center can provide assistance in using the HOM program as well as educator training (such as whole-staff training or conference sessions). Training can be offered onsite or via distance technology.
Lesson plans (with handouts and recipes) for over 42 different featured foods and Pre-K and Out-of-School learning plans are available on the South Dakota Harvest of the Month website. Users are required to create a free account to access the materials.
For more information on how this program has been implemented in South Dakota schools, please read the Capital Journal article Growing a positive attitude toward fruits and vegetables.
Children and youth
Food security and nutrition
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
June 18, 2013
June 2, 2017
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