For the second year in a row, Morehouse Parish School System students will enjoy access to healthy snacks thanks to a grant provided through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program.

At the August 2014 meeting of the school board, the grant award was mentioned by Dr. George Noflin as he presented reports to the board.

According to Paula Weeks, Child Nutrition Program director for Morehouse Parish Schools, the program, which provided a grant in excess of $200,000 to the school system for all the schools in the district, focuses on trying to give students fresh fruits and vegetables during school hours and also on exposing them to produce they may not normally see or taste at home.

The USDA Food and Nutrition Service says that FFVP can be an important tool in the department's efforts to combat childhood obesity, and FFVP is consistent with and supports the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations to provide healthier snack choices in schools.

Weeks said that Morehouse students will probably be able to enjoy a snack every day this year because of the shortened school week and that she hopes the snacks will be available in schools shortly — an initial order has already been placed.

The snacks, which are portion packaged when the schools receive them, are offered to students after lunch and are not part of the lunch meal, Weeks said. In past years students have sampled strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, baby carrots, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the fruit snacks are the bigger hit.

According to the USDA, the FFVP began as the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Program, which was authorized by Congress as part of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002. In 2008, the program expanded to all 50 states.