Last Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, Aramark, in conjunction with school nurse teacher Sandi Delack, instituted a three-day smoothie tasting program during the school lunch periods at Ferri Middle School. The program was part of a $4,000 Fuel Up to Play 60 grant, which funds healthy nutrition and physical activity improvements in K-12 schools.
"The response to the smoothies has been very positive, we've been much busier than we expected," said Jessica Patrolia, foodservice director for Aramark. "We've even had a better response from teachers than we normally do.”
The students and staff were able to try out several smoothie flavors each day, including cookies and cream, blueberry, honey-peach, strawberry-banana and cinnamon-apple.
Half of the grant money was used to fund exercise breaks in the classrooms, an initiative developed by Delack, and the other half was used to fund the smoothie tasting program, which included a camera for taking "milk mustache" photos of the students in front of a special banner after the tasting.
"The grants are only offered for sustainable programs, so we will be continuing the smoothie program. We used part of the grant money to purchase the equipment and the ingredients for this week's smoothies, but we are planning to start cycling smoothies into the nutrition program, probably starting with breakfast maybe once per week," said Patrolia, adding that the smoothies would most likely be free for those on free or reduced lunch and offered as an a la carte item for those who are not.
Delack and Aramark had the help of six eighth grade girls instituting the program. Jenna Pizzi, Lauren Messier, Erika Santilli, Haley Hohlaier, Natalie DeAngelis and Alice Faella were each involved in the required school survey that must be completed to apply for the grant, as well as helping out with promoting both the exercise breaks and the smoothie program.
"We had a big pep rally as a kick-off," said Pizzi. "We've been doing the exercise breaks during class. The teachers turn on the music and we exercise so that we don't get so tired during the day.”
During the lunch periods, the girls were ready and waiting with camera in hand as the students tried the smoothies and requested a milk mustache photo. A raffle was available for those who made a pledge to participate in the Play 60 program.
"The grant also helped to fund the DJ for the pep rally and the incentives for the raffle, like T-shirts to give away," said Patrolia.
"They like the smoothies, they like making the milk mustaches and we are having a lot of fun with it," added Messier.
Everyone seems to have chosen their favorite smoothie flavor of the ones that have been offered so far, but Patrolia said that most important, they're an additional healthy alternative to the menu.
"We don't add sugar; we use fresh fruit, real honey and real juice," she said. "Even the cookies and cream smoothies used the healthy cookies we sell."