Michelle Marker with the Nutrition Group hands out cups of freshly made apple lemonade to students at Mars Elementary School on Tuesday. Anne Monteverde, with the district's produce company Monteverde's, used a juicer to render whole lemons and red delicious apples into the healthy drink.
ADAMS TWP — Mars Elementary students got a tasty lesson in the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables Tuesday, courtesy of the district's food services provider. The Nutrition Group and its produce purveyor, Monteverde's, passed out 2-ounce servings of fresh apple lemonade as students enjoyed their lunches. Anne Monteverde used a juicer to render whole lemons and red delicious apples into a healthy drink, then poured it into paper cups for the young students noshing in the cafeteria. “I use red delicious apples because they contain the most sugar,” Monteverde said. “For the most part, they will all try it.” She made a total of 750 servings of the apple lemonade, which was enjoyed by second-, third- and fourth-graders. Michelle Marker of The Nutrition Group, Mars' longtime food services provider, said the goal of the project was to raise awareness among the elementary set regarding the importance of fruits and vegetables. Marker appeared to relish chatting with students who sipped the apple lemonade she offered. “It gives me an opportunity to talk to them about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and the benefits of vitamin C,” Marker said. She said the Nutrition Group offers many healthy-eating programs in the Pittsburgh-area districts it serves, including school visits by Molly the Cow and representatives from the Pittsburgh Zoo, who discuss animal nutrition. “It's a way to help (school districts') food service directors promote healthy eating in fun ways,” Marker said. The second graders lunching with their friends said they enjoyed the apple lemonade. “I think it was good because it was sour, but really sweet,” said Alaina Citchen, who added that her parents include fruits and vegetables in the family's meals. Libby Coles agreed with her classmate's assessment of the apple lemonade. She recognizes the benefits of fruit, especially her favorite, strawberries. “It makes you strong and healthy, and it's good for your heart,” Libby said. Principal Bob Zaccari said the cafeteria visit is one way among many that Mars uses to help its students develop beneficial habits they can carry into adulthood. “We are always looking for ways to encourage kids to make healthy choices,” he said.