(Jan. 21) NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — When it comes to encouraging students to eat more fruits and vegetables, the Hawthorne School District in Southern California may well be a role model for schools nationwide .

The district’s breakfast and Harvest of the Month programs have been so successful that two representatives were invited to talk about them with school foodservice professionals from across the country Jan. 18 at the 2004 Child Nutrition Industry Conference of the American School Food Service Association, Alexandria, Va.

“At the Hawthorne School District, our main goal is to get students excited about eating fruits and vegetables,” said Amy Beckstrom, the district’s coordinator of nutrition and foodservices. “We do this by offering them fruits and vegetables in ways we haven’t done before.”

One way to get students to eat more produce, she decided, was to encourage them to eat breakfast. Eating breakfast also makes students more alert and reduces absences and tardiness.

The district tried four approaches to encourage students to eat breakfast every day — single-day promotions that featured balloons and other giveaways in the cafeteria, free breakfasts, breakfast buffets and breakfast in the classroom.

The most successful was the breakfast in the classroom program where students receive a bowl of fresh fruit, milk and an entree in the classroom.

Another effort to encourage produce consumption is the district’s Harvest of the Month program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the California Nutrition Network, said Lynette Rock, the district’s Nutrition Network project director.

The Harvest of the Month program focuses on a different group of fruits or vegetables each month. A newsletter with recipes, lesson plans and information about the item of the month is sent to all teachers in the district. Students also may taste and write about the various fruits and vegetables in the classroom.