Monday, August 11, 2014

Fruit Snack Everyday? Yes, Way!

Oh, I am so grateful to have Fourth Grade Frolics' Monday Made It! linky to help spread the news about this system I developed to get GREAT healthy snacks into our class! You really gotta know about this! And this post holds a helpful Freebie, too!

In my classroom we eat community style snack, morning and afternoon, with everyone eating the same snack all together.

Did everyone get their squirt of hand gel first?
As both parent and teacher, I wanted to stay away from the cupcakes, chips, and candy that come into class when kids bring in daily snacks from home. We now know much more about how sugar is not good for our bodies and not good for learning. And we know how peer pressure from friends eating junk food trickles into families, even as they strive to eat in healthy ways. So I have parents supply two big boxes of shelf-stable, pantry items like crackers and cereals, about four times a year. The list that goes home includes only healthier choices to pick from.

But it gets better than that! You might wonder how it can be that parents only send in crackers four times a year to cover snack. Well, in this snack system parents supply fresh fruit and veggies for snack, too! And each family is only on the schedule four or five times in the year!

Three families send in fresh produce each week. I ask for what amounts to one serving of snack for each child in the group–  a small bag of apples, a bag of baby carrots, half the number of bananas as kids, three cucumbers... you get the idea. I found over the years, though, that many parents happily send in more than this, easily supplying two class snacks per contribution. This means HALF OR MORE of our DAILY SNACKS are FRESH FRUIT AND VEGGIES. It's TERRIFIC!

Parents LOVE our snack system. When compared to packing two snacks every day, they save money and time by sending in class snacks less than ten times in the year. And both parents and I are happy that kids eat better overall... kids usually dig into fruit and veggies faster when their friends are happily munching beside them.

Sooo Good!
Here are the details that make it work:

Family participation is not mandatory in any way and I say that clearly to parents. However, over the ten years I've been doing this, I have come across very few families, as in maybe two, who never sent in produce at least some of the time. And, regardless, each student still got regular fresh snack as planned.

My school has a wide range of diverse families. One of the most striking things I discovered is that a household's economic means is neither a predictor of who will participate, nor how much produce will be sent in. Families who don't shop at fundraisers or book sales, for example, participate in supplying fruit. And my experience says that these very families are often the ones who show up at the classroom door with a whole grocery bag of produce!

If you teach at a school with extreme poverty, than this system might not work as described here. I encourage you to consider the benefits and think about ways that it could be tweaked so your students get more fruits and veggies, and healthier snacks in general. As a teacher, I've lived the adage where there's a will, there's a way. Before I developed this system in which all families to participate, I found three families who sent in enough fruit for each child once a week– one of them was not a parent at our school! In all my years of public school teaching we have had fresh produce... the will, the way.

Cukes become our favorite every year... Who knew?

It is not a hassle for me as a teacher. With all we have to do in our full days, I simply couldn't do it if that were not the case. I ask that parents wash the produce, but that's all. I've set up a space and routine for serving, and I've become a fast-as-a-TV-chef chopper... well, almost. Serving snack takes less minutes than everyone going to their backpacks to get and open snacks. Honest. And while I dole out and chop, we sing, do brain quizzes (like minute math), and talk to our friends. So although you could use your planning time to ready the snacks, you don't have to.

I make the schedule that parents follow by looking over the school calendar for the entire year. I list all the weeks we're in school and ask families to send in the goods on Monday or Tuesday of their week. Each week I assign three families to bring in produce. If it is a four day or less week, or there are days when we won't be having regular snack for some reason, I assign fewer families.

I discuss our snack system on Curriculum Night, and send home a letter explaining how it works. Although I like to discuss it at our meeting, this is not crucial to the system. The year I began serving fruits and veggies, I started midyear and it took off just fine. Also, there are always some families who miss Curriculum Night, and they come on board through the letter I send home.

As a help to parents, and to keep the snack program running smoothly, my Communication Parent (CP) sends home email reminders. My CP is a classroom parent who can't come in to help during the school day, but does have internet access. He/she emails a reminder to the parents of the upcoming week on the Friday afternoon before.

Quick FAQS:
- Crowds? This works in my classes of 18-22 students before needing any tweaking of amounts.

- Cleanliness? Each child gets a squirt of sanitizer hand gel directly before eating. We also practice "taking the first one our fingers touch." Bowls are cleaned after each use. My physician parents have had no issue with hand gel or community snack. With all the contact the kiddos have all day, snacking is probably one of our cleaner periods, because our germ awareness goes up with our healthy practices.

- Hungry? Kids always have the choice to eat or not. Even when they don't eat much, they go just another hour or so before having the chance to eat again. I encourage a "tooth bite," which is sticking one corner of one tooth into the selection. Funny how it's usually not as bad as they think.

- Yucky? Kids are permitted to say, "I don't care for this" one time. They are not allowed to say it more than that because it would be rude to the kids in our classroom community who like the food. The few kids who say this often say it right before they munch it all down :)

Snack was out on the veranda this spring day.

To make this all easier for you to see and use, I have a FREEBIE download for you to mull over. I include:
– a sample snack blurb to distribute to families describing our community fruit/veggie snack plan
– a sample nut-free, pantry snack list. This is the list I ask parents to choose from when they send in their boxes of snack for our pantry cupboard. Sometimes teachers don't want to have community style snack because they worry about kids with nut allergies. With community snack, I'm the gatekeeper doling out what everyone is eating, which makes our snacks more safe for allergy kids to be around. And the allergy families are happy, too.
– a sample parent schedule for bringing in produce throughout the year, which gives suggestions for produce to try.
– a sample email message that is sent to families by our CP.

Click on our basket of bounty to get to the FREE DOWNLOADS.

I would sure LIKE it if you would follow me! Various tips, tidbits and downloadables like this appear here. And we do believe in freebies :) Also, to my blogger friends, I'd love if you'd spread the word about this way of snacking and send readers on over to check it out. I think kids will benefit tons!

If you already have ways to get less junk and healthier snacks into your classroom, please share in the comments! If you're inspired to give it a try, I'd love to hear that, too. And even more terrific would be if you come back and let us know after it becomes your norm, or if you're a blogger, blog away. When you stumble upon something that works for you and your kiddos, you can't help but want to spread the word.

I say with great enthusiasm– try it, you'll like it!

Be sure to ask any questions you have below, too-- I'll get back to you! My hope is you'll put this healthy snack system in place for your kiddos.

Now click to head on back to more good ideas! Thanks, Tara!

The post Fruit Snack Everyday? Yes, Way! first appeared on


  1. This is very interesting and a great idea. I'm a student teacher so i'm not familiar with rules and regulations. Did you have to get this approved by your school first? Do other teachers do it? Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Ashley! Well, be sure to check with your own school, but at ours, parents bringing fruit is welcome. And as parents don't have to, and no one is keeping track, that is okay, too. I have parents who wish it would continue for all the years their kids are in school. I don't know how many other teachers do. Hopefully you get to try it– the freebie will help. Thanks for sharing! Kathleen

  2. Sounds delicious! We serve breakfast in our classrooms daily (kindergarten). One year I brought fresh fruit in once a week for the kids to have with breakfast, and they loved it. I've asked for parent donations, but I find that I get the same 2-3 who volunteer, and I don't want to keep asking those same couple parents. Maybe I will try a couple times a month this year. Thanks for sharing!

    A Very Curious Class

    1. Hi Amanda! How great all your kinders get breakfast! Such a great way to start the learning day, and not a given in many households. I hope whatever you try works out. Thanks for sharing. Kathleen

  3. Excellent idea to keep healthy eating an early part of children's lives! Kudos and much respect to you!

  4. Hi Kathleen! (This is my 2nd attempt to respond, so please delete if it's a repeat!) We do "healthy" snacks in our classroom, with me strongly encouraging fruits and veggies and saying NO DESSERTS, but after reading your post I may be inspired to go all fruits/veggies this school year. It's much more clear than the word "healthy" is, you don't have to worry about nut allergies, and students really do start to eat more produce when it's part of the classroom culture. So I was wondering, what do you do if parents send in something like cookies instead? Also, how do you handle birthdays? Thanks! Heather

    1. Hi Heather, Glad you want to try it. Let's see if I can answer briefly. I think having lists for parents to choose from helps. There can be no mistake of what you mean then. Three parents a week send in produce, which usually amounts in three to six fresh snacks a week. You'll still need the pantry dry items to fill in your ten snacks per week, assuming you give morning and afternoon snack. I usually send home a friendly email if something I can't serve for snack comes in, explaining, and sending the lists again. If it is such we can use it for some other "treat" event, I keep it. Otherwise not. Having allergy kids keeps a lot of chips and cookies out of the room, even if healthy is not the goal in general. Birthdays are the exception- I say treats need to be a self-serve (no cutting on my part) sweet treat like a cookie, donut, or ice cream sandwich. I give the allergy kids a sweet treat from the special supply I've already had those parents send in for these occasions. I do not have the parents of the birthday kid send in allergy safe foods. I am not going to take the risk of a bakery item REALLY being okay, and the allergy parents would rather supply their own cookie or candy bar for these occasions to be safe anyway. I want the allergy kids to feel part of the group as often as possible, but in reality they are going to have to eat somewhat differently always anyway. They still get a treat. And it allows for a little education on everybody's part. Hope this helps! Thanks for stopping by. Kathleen


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