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The 'Farm to Market Road Show'

Registered dietitian Lindsay Taylor held up a bowl of whole wheat flour for a group of about 20 Mountain View Elementary School fifth-graders to see.

"Whole wheat flour has all three parts," she explained, identifying the germ, the bran and endosperm on a diagram.

With help from a student, Taylor poured the flour into a sieve, creating a fine white powder in the bowl beneath.

"If you're eating white flour, you're just getting one part, the carb, the energy. We need that energy, but look what's in here, left over, tossed out," she said, tilting the sieve so the kids could see what remained. "All the bran and germ, all the nutrition."

Taylor manned one of five stations at Sodexo's 13th annual Farm to Market Nutrition Fair, held Thursday morning at Mountain View Elementary. The fair also was offered this week at Roosevelt Elementary and Talent Elementary schools in Jackson County and Manzanita Elementary in the Three Rivers School District.

Sodexo, a school food provider, hosts the program at different schools each year.

"With budgets the way they are, we try to provide a field trip without leaving school, and it only takes kids out of the classroom for an hour," said Jeff Ashmun, Sodexo's regional general manager. "We call it our 'Farm-to-Market Road Show.' "

At the sound of a cow bell, students move from station to station to hear short, interactive presentations.

On Thursday, Taylor covered whole grains, including brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, whole oats and spelt. Jordyn Coon of the Oregon Department of Agriculture talked to kids about the natural resources in Southern Oregon — beef cows, grapes and pears — and other parts of the state. Danielle Bull, the 2014 Oregon Dairy princess ambassador, discussed the secrets of dairy processing and the importance of dairy in the diet. Sabrina Ellison, Sodexo's catering manager, reminded kids to eat five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and Michael Morris, Sodexo's Three Rivers manager, stood in front of a mound of fresh produce and introduced students to a variety of fruits and vegetables.

By the end of the week, 1,500 youths participated in the educational event, Ashmun said.

The aim is to promote healthy eating by familiarizing students with the different food groups, push them to try new things and make them aware of what's available, specifically in Southern Oregon, he said.

A variety of food, ranging from watermelon and chips to enchiladas and chocolate chip cookies, were represented on a large poster board. Ellison called on students to choose what they would like to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

For dinner, students chose soda, steak, chicken nuggets, salad, enchiladas and spaghetti from the board. Ellison reminded them that only one of those items — the salad — was a vegetable, and they would need at least another four servings of fruits and vegetables during the day.

Fifth-grader Jessica Steffy said she ate some grapes for breakfast but still needed another eight servings of fruits and vegetables before the end of the day.

The fair culminated in the cafeteria, where students and staff could feast from the A-to-Z salad bar, including apples, beets, carrots, etc.

Roosevelt Elementary, which enjoyed the healthy buffet earlier in the week, is one of eight schools in Medford to participate in the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program. Four days a week, kids receive a fresh fruit or vegetable snack, such as jicama, daikon, cabbage or something more familiar. Teachers then educate their students about the nutritional benefits of the snack.

Kimberly Miles, principal of Roosevelt Elementary, said the aim is to change kids' palates from sweet and salty to nutritious. She said the A-to-Z salad bar was a huge hit among her students.

"I was in (the cafeteria) watching students, and I could see them start to read the labels," she said. "Children could see how many choices are out there."

At Mountain View Elementary, children hesitated before scooping unfamiliar food items such as fennel, water chestnuts and quinoa onto their trays. Some students passed up these foods altogether, and instead chose a lunch of oranges, pears and apples.

Fourth-grader Isaiah Meade dared to try the quinoa.

"I've never tried quinoa," he said. "It's not good."

Meade and his friends, Cornelio Martinez and Darian Bradd, improvised and created sandwiches using ingredients from the salad bar, primarily cheese and lean turkey, which they put on a whole wheat roll.

"(Today) I learned there are a lot of different types of cows and that this food is good for me," said Martinez, as he took a bite of his salad alternative.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

From left, first-graders Rodrigo Cruz, Emily Anderson and Astrid Rivas pick out fruits and vegetables at the salad bar. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore