FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Apple Seeds, a local educational non-profit, is reinitiating their in-school nutrition education programs supported by a grant from the Walmart Foundation.

The Cooking In The Schools program teaches students cooking skills combined with nutrition education to empower them to enjoy and choose nutrient-rich foods. During the school day, students learn how to prepare a simple nutritious recipe and learn the importance of nutrition in food choices. Each child goes home with the recipe plus the ingredients to replicate their experience at home.

In a press release, a spokesperson for Apple Seeds said that “the past two years have shown just how important it is to be healthy and resilient. This program is a step in that direction for thousands of children.”

The organization’s goal is to reach students in elementary through middle school across Northwest Arkansas with engaging lessons that teach them about preparing, cooking and eating a diet filled with healthy and great tasting vegetables and fruits. For example, third graders will have the opportunity to try a new recipe this year, Zucchini Bites.

In Arkansas, only 1.2 percent of youth consume the daily vegetable recommendations according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health. Apple Seeds is building a positive culture around nutrient-dense foods in the schools, teaching students how to cook and bringing fresh produce directly to the students. Cooking In The Schools incorporates appropriate grade level standards for health, math, and literacy while building interest and skills in healthy food preparation.

Students not only need access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, they need to be willing to try new vegetables. We are seeing that on average 70 percent of students leave the program willing to try vegetables they prepared during class. Fifty percent report that they go on to make the same recipes on their own after the class, and 60 percent of students report eating the vegetables that Apple Seeds sends home with them. We are also seeing 65-75 percent of the students are retaining the nutrition education concepts a week after the class.

Mary Thompson, Executive Director, Apple Seeds

Apple Seeds has been serving Northwest Arkansas for more than 14 years. In that time the organization has positively impacting the community. Student surveys show improved attitudes and behaviors toward healthy food, and heightened knowledge of nutrition.