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Local kids learn benefits of eating healthy
crowell market pic1
UC Cooperative Extension Nutritionist Marc Sanchez and AgLink CEO Jana Nairn talk to students at Crowell Elementary at Wednesdays after school program to promote awareness about healthy eating and fresh, local farm products. - photo by BROOKE BORBA / The Journal

Teaching children the importance of eating healthy is not always easy. Children often think negatively about fruits and vegetables, and are slow to taste new things.

In response to this predicament, the City of Turlock has launched another After School Education Safety program with the Turlock Unified School District and in conjunction with the UC David Cooperative Extension program and to provide a farmers’ market opportunity for local students.

Turlock students will have the chance to learn where food comes from, what types of fruits and vegetables are grown locally, and interesting facts associated with food.

 By the end of the presentation, students are provided with shopping bags to pick out an assorted selection of fresh fruits and vegetables to eat or take home for their families.

TUSD Child Nutrition Manager Cathy Ford said the idea stemmed from a program done at Brown Elementary School last fall. Shortly after the program was finished, Ford stated that parents and students were excited to see more.

In an effort to get more students involved, the program grew in size to incorporate and the UC Cooperative Extension, and other schools within the district.

“Doing the farmers’ market at Brown took a life of its own. Now, our hope is to educate the students on the benefits of fruits and vegetables so they will be more likely to eat them at home. Now all the connections are coming together. We have more help than we ever expected. We are gearing up to promote a contest to make things interesting. ”

The contest, known as the “Eating lunch at school is cool, cuz it’s fresh, local and great body fuel” is an effort to raise awareness about healthy eating and local farm fresh products.

The campaign can be found on’s Facebook page, and whichever school receives the most “likes” on Facebook by May 15 will win a prize from

The goal of the contest is to get other schools interested in promoting healthy eating through a friendly competition. Currently, there are only seven after school programs from Turlock Unified School District that are hosting these farmers’ markets for the month of April.

While most schools are struggling to stay within regulation of the newly approved Food Safety Act, Turlock Unified District is at the forefront, leading the state in providing over 80 percent of fresh, local food in school lunches.

“AgLink has grown drastically,” said Jana Nairn, CEO of the local company that helps facilitate the buying and selling of agricultural products. “We have facilitated over a million cases of produce sold in just eight months. I like being at the school sites and reaching out to the kids.”

Nairn promoted the contest to local students at Crowell Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon. Students lined up to secure their fruit, and listened to a presentation from UC Cooperative Extension Nutritionist Marc Sanchez.

“When I was 13 years old, I weighed 195 pounds. That compelled me to earn a degree in nutrition. The day I stepped foot on campus, I said I would achieve something great in boxing, and bring back my knowledge of nutrition to the community,” said Sanchez. “I had pre-diabetes, sleep apnea and a lack of confidence. I was a prisoner in my own body. I don’t want to see them go through that.”

Sanchez has the exuberance of a child, which kept students engaged in answering his questions. Through this method, he teaches interesting facts associated with produce the children are eating during the program.

“Marc is funny,” said 11 year-old Timothy Sanchez. “He knows a lot about this kind of stuff. I like that they gave us strawberries. They are my favorite because they are like fuel and have a lot of sweetness. It’s a good thing to be healthy.”