December 13, 2021
From Vegan Life

Grant-making nonprofit VegFund has started supporting a revolutionary plant-based programme in Arlington Public Schools called Fresh Food Explorers (FFE).

Created by Real Food for Kids with a grant from VegFund, the aim of FFE is to increase the access to and eating of fresh vegetables among preschoolers, including those in low-income communities who are at risk of developing health problems due to their diets.

Real Food for Kids advocates for positive changes to school food policies. Aligning their goals with those of schools and multiple stakeholders, they’ve generated institutionalised support for increases in whole-food, plant-based school food as a critical component of children’s wellness and academic success.

Fresh Food Explorers

Partnering with an organisation called Healthy Community Action Team Arlington, Real Food for Kids developed Fresh Food Explorers.

The programme is an eight-week nutrition course piloted in 2019 at Carlin Springs Elementary School, USA, where 85 per cent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches. The research-based curriculum was customised for its young audience with feedback from preschool teachers.

Mary Porter, director of Programs at Real Food for Kids, said: “We’re seeing these kids at a very early age to see if we can impart some fun to this, really get them engaged in the idea of eating vegetables.”

In-class lessons engage students’ fine motor skills and senses in hands-on activities such as sorting vegetables into a rainbow arrangement. Children get to hold, smell, and taste a variety of vegetables and combine them in a finished dish, such as fresh salsa or gazpacho, that they then get to enjoy!


The lessons often highlight and explore an ingredient found in the school lunch menu for the day, sparking students’ curiosity to try a vegetable in the cafeteria line that they might otherwise skip. Furthermore, students take home simple recipes that their families can try together.

Ellen Vicens, preschool teacher commented: “The students loved when Fresh Food Explorers came every week.”

“They would get so excited to participate in the lessons, raise their hands, and contribute their ideas. The most powerful thing was for some of the more hesitant students to be influenced by their friends’ enthusiasm for vegetables and eventually try tiny nibbles for themselves. Parents said their children talked about the lessons and asked to eat the vegetables at home!”