Sandy Hill Elementary celebrates nutrition

submitted to dorchester banner/laura wormuth, UME Principal Vaughn Evans (left) and FSNE educator Nathan Bratko check out the apple tasting station with some of the Sandy Hill students.

submitted to dorchester banner/laura wormuth, UME
Principal Vaughn Evans (left) and FSNE educator Nathan Bratko check out the apple tasting station with some of the Sandy Hill students.

CAMBRIDGE — The University of Maryland Extension (UME) Food Supplement Nutrition Education (FSNE) program partnered with the Dorchester County Career and Technology Center (DCCTC), Meals to Monday, and the Dorchester County Judy Center, to bring a full day of fresh food tastings and fun to the students of Sandy Hill Elementary on Oct. 17, in Cambridge.

The full day educational program to celebrate National Childhood Nutrition Day was initiated for the first time this year through the work of Chef Charlene Zinnel of the DCCTC who was awarded a grant from the American Culinary Federation to sponsor the the event for pre-K through grade 5 students.

“Today is a tasting adventure,” said Nathan Bratko, FSNE project leader and educator for UME, during the assembly. “We’re going to be positive role models for other schools to try healthy foods.”

FSNE program materials were used to introduce new foods like pumpkin parfaits and fruit kabobs to the students, all prepared and served along with lessons by the DCCTC culinary arts students, who taught the kids about the differences in types of apples, which pumpkins are for eating and which are only for decoration, and what happens when grapes and cranberries are dried.

“My philosophy is, anything that’s good for kids, is good for me, and this is certainly an excellent opportunity for our children to take advantage of not only something that’s going to help them now, but something that’s going to help them in the future,” said Sandy Hill Elementary Principal Vaughn Evans. “These students realize that it’s not just taking care of your bodies and your brains now, this is going to be something that you can take advantage of for the rest of your life.”

The students were asked to vote on their favorite new foods and the results were tallied to share with other schools in the region. Sandy Hill’s results included results for the foods tried by different age groups — Kindergarten through second graders tasted pumpkin parfaits and three varieties of apples. Third through fifth graders tasted fruit smoothies and fruit kabobs. All students enjoyed fresh grapes and cranberries paired with raisins and dried cranberries, respectively.

An unofficial survey of the students in attendance resulted in 70 percent of the K-2nd reporting that they enjoyed the apples, and 71 percent of the 3rd-5th graders enjoyed trying the fruit kabobs. The dried fruits ranked the lowest among the students with 40 percent of the K-2nd graders and 35 percent of the 3rd-5th graders, giving them a thumbs up. All of the students, 100 percent, reported that they enjoyed trying new foods.

National Childhood Nutrition Day occurs in conjunction with National School Lunch Week and National Walk to School Day. Sandy Hill Elementary students finished their day with a school walk for health in the afternoon, encouraging children to make healthy choices for their bodies and their minds.

“I’m really happy that this school was selected to participate because it is all about taking care of your bodies,” said Principal Evans. “I tell people all the time, you can’t take care of anybody unless you can take care of yourself. This is an excellent opportunity for our kids to take care of themselves, be productive citizens, and make this a better country and world.”

For more information on this partnership or other FSNE activities in your local area, contact Nathan Bratko at 443-518-9571 or

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