By Starla Pointer • Staff Writer • 

Students try spuds fixed new ways

One Oregon-grown vegetable or fruit is featured each month.

It’s often something new to many students, such as asparagus or kiwi. But this week it was new forms of an old standby familiar to all — the potato.

School cooks prepared them in a manner kids may not have seen — not fried, not mashed, but roasted and served under pork gravy, with a wedge of orange and some coin-sized slices of carrot on the side.

At Sue Buel, many children reached for the potatoes, but others opted for the alternative lunch — the ever-popular yogurt and soft pretzel stick. Either way, almost all stopped at the fresh fruit and vegetable bar — open daily — to add lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower or beets.

Fresh fruit and vegetable bars have been a fixture in McMinnville School District cafeterias for two decades, but the fresh and local fruit and vegetable promotional program dates back only a few years. It’s supported by federal grants to schools with high percentages of students meeting federal poverty standards, which covers all elementary schools in the McMinnville district.

“We want to expose students to what they might not see at home,” said Cindy Hiatt-Henry, the district’s nutrition services director.

As often as they can, cooks offer students raw preparations or, as with the potatoes, less-familiar cooking methods. Students are encouraged to take and taste the unfamiliar fruits or vegetables.

Peer pressure sometimes has a positive affect. So do the fun facts that schools post in the halls, in the cafeteria and on school websites.

This month’s “Harvest of the Month” posters tout potatoes for their high vitamin C and potassium content; their Peruvian origin; and their value to prospectors during the Klondike gold rush.

Tying lunch to academics, the posters also mention art. They note that Vincent Van Gogh painted several potato-themed works, including “The Potato Eaters.”

The potatoes and thecarrots the schools served Wednesday were grown in Oregon. As much as possible, though, the district looks for produce grown not just in the Oregon, but also in Yamhill County.

Many items come from a farm in Dayton. And in May, students will sample mushrooms grown in Yamhill.

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