By Krystal Spring/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
BOX ELDER - Eight-year-old Nathan Parker stood alongside his second-grade classmates at Box Elder School - bowl in hand, he scanned a long table of colorful fruits and vegetables displayed before him.
Parker grabbed a slice of orange, an apple, and a section of a pear, but his outstretched hand quickly recoiled at the containers filled with yellow, red and greed peppers.
"I don't want any of that," Parker told Tracy Burns, a nutritionist at the Rocky Boy Clinic.
Burns was visiting the school Monday to promote the nationally recognized 5 A Day program, which emphasizes the importance of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health.
"These aren't hot," Burns told Parker, pointing to the containers filled with vibrantly colored vegetables. "Come on, try the yellow or red one, they're really sweet. I bet if you try one, you'll like it."
Parker, still looking hesitant, grabbed a red pepper and moved down the line. He later sat down with friends to enjoy the fruits and vegetables, including the red pepper.
"That's what we're trying to do, is get the kids to try something new," Burns said. "We hope that they'll encourage their parents to buy this type of food next time they're at the grocery store."
Each year during September, several 5 A Day partners, including the National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, conduct a nationwide effort to promote fruits and vegetables. National 5 A Day Month aims to stimulate a lasting commitment to eat five servings of fruits and veggies every day for life.
For the past three years, Rocky Boy's Diabetic Wellness Center has sponsored the 5 A Day the Native American Way program. Clinic staffers visited schools in both Box Elder and Rocky Boy Monday and Tuesday, handing out fruits and vegetables and encouraging students to eat healthy food. Today more containers of fruits and vegetables will be taken to tribal offices and businesses in Rocky Boy.
"We'll serve over a thousand people at the end of the three day period," Yvonne Hill, a registered nurse and the diabetes coordinator for the Rocky Boy Health Board, said Monday. "It's really quite an undertaking to do this."
The clinic spent $1,400 on fruits and vegetables to give to students and community members this week. Tribal elders were hired to cut up the 1,500 pounds of produce. The 5 A Day program in Rocky Boy was started in 2002, after the tribe received a $300 mini-grant from the U.S. Department of Public Health and Human Services specifically for the 5 A Day campaign. Now funding from the tribe's Special Diabetes Program for Indians grant helps subsidize the fruits and vegetables day.
"It's good," seven-year-old Shy'll Parisian said while eating a bowl of food, mostly filled with broccoli "I like broccoli But I haven't had one of those before," she said, pointing to a plum one of her classmates was eating.
In addition to encouraging children to eat healthy foods, the 5 A Day program also emphasizes the importance of eating fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases, including diabetes.
"It helps reinforce diabetes prevention," Burns said. "Plus it helps us increase the exposure of our program throughout the year."
Hill said the 5 A Day program in schools is a proactive approach to addressing health concerns within Rocky Boy.
"As they grow up, hopefully these kids will realize why eating fruits and vegetables is important," Hill said. "Sometimes it can take years before you really see the results. As these kids grow up and go grocery shopping, we hope they'll buy fruits and vegetables."