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A fruitful summer at Walnut
Lessons on healthy food have summer school students eating right
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Walnut Elementary summer school students Mia Moore, Nolan Armstrong and Avery Armstrong show off their peaches and apricots from the TUSD Farm before the start of the school day on Friday morning (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

It’s not often you see kids wanting to eat healthy nowadays, but it’s not an uncommon sight at Walnut Elementary this summer.

During the summer school session at the campus, students are receiving special lessons in healthy eating thanks to administrator Robin Swartz and the state funded CalFresh program.

“Each year, I try to plan some fun things to add to the STEAM-themed curriculum and hands-on projects,” explained Swartz. “I contacted CalFresh Healthy Living (University of California, Cooperative Extension) who did some classroom lessons for me during the school year. They are sending someone out on Thursday and Friday mornings to teach lessons to my K-3 students.”

The person being sent out is Eddie Lopez, who works in nutrition education for CalFresh. Lopez visited every campus in the Turlock Unified School District this past year to give lessons on healthy eating and nutrition.

“It’s my first year doing it and I’ve been to every school in the school district,” Lopez said. “So far it’s doing great, which I’m super excited about.”

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Eddie Lopez, a nutrition educator with CalFresh, goes over different food groups and discusses the nutritional facts of each food with Walnut summer school students during a lesson on Friday morning (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

For the younger students, Lopez goes over different food groups – fruits, vegetables, proteins, grains and extras – and discusses the nutritional facts of each food. He also goes over clean eating practices, such as hand washing, food rinsing and more. On Friday morning, Lopez brought in worksheets and a hands-on activity where students began growing their own carrots in plastic bags. 

The goal is clear – to get kids to like healthy foods and steer them away from processed meals. And it seems to be working.

Friday also served as the summer program’s first Fruit Basket Friday of the year. When students were dropped off in the morning, they and their parents were given fresh fruit from the TUSD Farm, located at 625 E. Taylor Road.

“Peaches, apricots, they are so delicious, and we have more than enough to give the parents,” Swartz said.

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Joanna Oshana, being extra safe with her hair net, shows off her freshly planted carrot seeds after participating in a CalFresh activity hosted by nutrition educator Eddie Lopez (CHRISTOPHER CORREA/The Journal).

The kids were eating them in bunches while Swartz was handing them out to parents.

As for the bruised and soft fruits, they are stored in the school kitchen so that they can be used to bake sweets and aren’t wasted.

“My favorite part is how the kids remember what I taught last time and how they bring their own experiences to the lessons,” Lopez shared. “They tell me about the foods they eat at home, and it’s healthy food, so it’s amazing.”