CEDAR LAKE | Lincoln Elementary School second-graders have such discerning palates now they prefer red peppers to green peppers.
Lincoln Principal Brandie Muha was having lunch with the second-graders recently, and noted how they had raw cucumbers and green peppers on their trays.
“I told them, ‘I have green peppers in my lunch, too,’” she said. “And they said, ‘We like the red peppers better.’”
Fresh fruits and vegetables have been a big hit with students of all grades at Lincoln and Jane Ball elementary schools.
The menus and food service plans that brought such healthy food to the schools have won recognition from first lady Michelle Obama’s Healthier U.S. School Challenge.
As silver award winners, Jane Ball and Lincoln are receiving plaques, banners and $1,000 that will be put toward nutritional education.
There are four award levels in the challenge: gold, silver, bronze and Gold Award of Distinction. Jane Ball and Lincoln were the only schools in the Hanover Community School Corp. to apply for the challenge this year, said Isabella Pennybacker, Hanover’s food service director.
“We’re very pleased,” she said. “Out of 50 schools (in the state), two of them in our district have received (recognition.)”
Fifty schools applied for the award and 17 were chosen, Hanover spokesmen said. Two of those 17 were Lincoln and Jane Ball.
All schools participating in the national school lunch program may apply, and the awards recognize those schools that have created healthier school environments by promoting nutrition and physical activity.
For Hanover, the change meant more than just new menus that emphasized fresh fruits and vegetables. It also meant a change in philosophy.
School officials now think outside the box when it comes to rewarding students, Pennybacker said.
Instead of a treat when they do well, the students get a reward that doesn’t involve food.
Earlier in the year, Muha decided to reward some of her high achievers with a karaoke program, rather than a special meal.
“The kids loved it,” Pennybacker said.
Over at Jane Ball, students have been enthusiastic about food choices that might astonish many adults, kitchen manager Karen Hoover said.
"They’re really interested in healthy stuff. They’ve really been going after raw carrots, cauliflower. We serve brown rice, which we love, and hummus; I was surprised how many kids loved hummus," Hoover said. "It makes you feel good that they’re eating healthy, fresh food.”