|Reviewers Comments: ||The Harvest of the Month toolkit was designed for SNAP-eligible students from Pre-K through 12th grade and their families and communities. The program is intended to be delivered in cycles as a series of 12 monthly lessons, each month with similar components that focus on a different fruit or vegetable. These monthly lessons, and the program as a whole, have the goal of exposing participants to new fruits and vegetable and encouraging them to increase their overall consumption of a variety of fruits and vegetables, which is one of the main consumer messages of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) and a focus of MyPlate. Physical activity, also a key recommendation from the 2010 DGA and MyPlate, is also incorporated into each monthly lesson.
Harvest of the Month was developed using the Social Ecological model as a framework. This model, highlighted in the 2010 DGA, focuses on how all elements of society shape an individual’s food and physical activity choices. Each of the four key elements of the toolkit (Educator Newsletters, Family Newsletters, Menu Slicks, and Press Releases) were designed to incorporate the five main levels of the Social Ecological Model (individual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and policy), and the program as a whole was designed to be implemented in a variety of areas: classroom, cafeteria, home, and community.
The four key components of each month’s lesson, all of which can be personalized with a school or district name, contact information, and logo, are:
- Educator Newsletters – A series of twelve monthly newsletters are available to download that include activities that can be performed with students to expose them to a new fruit/vegetable for example taste testing, cooking in class, student sleuths (questions to research), school garden activities (can be performed in gardens or in class), and activities related to physical activity. Newsletters also nutritional information, growing information, home grown facts and literature links on the featured fruit or vegetable. Note that some of the information in each letter is specific to California. Users from other states could excluded this information or substitute it with other relevant information from their state.
- Family Newsletters – A series of twelve one-page monthly newsletters for families are also available in English and Spanish are designed to involve families in the program. General information about nutrition and child health, tips for providing more fruits and vegetables, an easy recipe for the featured fruit or vegetable of the month, physical activity ideas, and selection and storage tips are included.
- Menu Slicks – Two-sided hand out with an area for school cafeterias to insert their monthly menus. Each slick includes various activites as well as information on nutrition and healthy benefits of the month’s fruit/vegetable.
- Press Releases – Each two-page press release, available in English and Spanish, provides information on what students are doing and can help to encourage community participation. Press releases include nutrition information and background on the fruit/vegetable of the month, sections for each district to insert their own information, and statistics on how the produce supports California (users from other states could exclude this information).
Twelve posters are also available to be ordered to provide a visual display of the monthly produce that is featured. Posters are available in English and Spanish.
Those implementing this program could find program materials and other resources from the Harvest of the Month Web site. The ‘Training Corner’ page includes many materials that can be downloaded and used to successfully train site coordinators, teachers, child nutrition, staff and more, an essential component for successful implementation of the program. Program materials can also be downloaded from this site.
Ideally, Harvest of the Month would be implemented in its entirety. This would involve cooperation between school staff, administration and parents as well as school board members and districts and even community organizations. The monthly lessons and activities, if taught in their entirety, could also take a considerable amount of classroom time. The toolkit comes with information on how to gather support support for the implementation of this program. If this program can’t be implemented fully, the various elements and activities of this program could be used separately to accompany other nutrition lessons or as stand-alone education tools designed to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. The Web Links section of the Harvest of the Month Web site has links to many resources that could complement the program. Educators could also choose to complete the one or multiple months of the program without completing an entire cycle and it would still be effective.