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This school year, select Wegmans Food Market stores will again host “Eat Well Live Well 4th Grade Tours.” This free field trip, offered by Wegmans for more than 20 years, teaches fourth-graders about foods that help them grow strong and healthy and where those foods come from. What they learn ties in with fourth-grade science, geography and math lessons in the classroom. To date, more than a quarter-million kids – averaging over 11,000 a year - have visited the produce, cheese, bakery, meat and seafood departments of the store to taste and learn more about eating healthy. Tours are available in stores in all six states where Wegmans markets are found: NY, PA, NJ, MD, VA, and MA.
REGISTRATION DETAILS: Tours are free for fourth-grade classes. They typically begin at 9 or 9:30 a.m. and run two hours. Tour availability is limited to select dates and stores, and sign up is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Teachers can schedule a tour by calling 1-800-Wegmans Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Transportation is not provided and three chaperones must assist the teacher in escorting children through the store.
“Our lesson plans align with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s My Plate nutrition guidelines for healthy eating, as well as Wegmans’ own ‘Eat Well Live Well’ principles,” said Trish Kazacos, RD, who oversees the curriculum that Wegmans’ nutritionists developed.
Each store department that kids visit has its own story to tell. Students are reminded of the importance of farmers and farmland to provide the food that’s on our plates and in our lunchboxes.
At the bakery, youngsters sample whole-grain bread as they learn that bread gets its start on farms that grow grains in the “bread basket” states. The grains go to mills to be ground into flour. Flour, liquid and yeast make bread – with the yeast producing bubbles of carbon dioxide to make the bread rise, so it’s not as flat as a pancake. Kids see how yeast dissolved in a bottle of water can actually create gas that inflates a balloon attached to the bottle – or they see a poster demonstrating the same thing.
In the produce department, Wegmans people typically talk about the importance of getting five cups a day of fruit or vegetables. That guideline works for most adults and older teens, but for younger children (like 4th graders) they learn to make a fist to see what the right-size serving would be for them, and their goal is to strive for five fists of fruits and vegetables every day. They also learn that eating whole fruits and vegetables most of the time is healthier than drinking juice. “It’s okay to drink some juice, but we say that juice should be only one serving of fruit or vegetables each day. The other servings should be whole or sliced fruits or vegetables – fresh, frozen, or canned -- because they provide fiber, which the body also needs,” Kazacos says. Fruits and vegetables come in a rainbow of colors, each color providing a different combination of vitamins, minerals and natural compounds that build strong bodies. To encourage them to “eat a rainbow” every day and to try new foods, the produce team passes tasting samples of fruits or veggies that some kids may not have tried before – such as mangoes, snap peas , or pomegranate.
At the Cheese Shop, kids learn that three servings a day of dairy foods provide the protein, calcium and the A, B and D vitamins that build strong muscles and bones. They also learn that raw milk comes from cows, sheep, goats or even water buffalo. It’s then pasteurized and sold as milk or is turned into yogurt or cheese when enzymes or “good” bacteria have been added.
In the meat and seafood area, students learn about how much protein kids need each day, and see where that protein could come from as they view different cuts of beef, pork, lamb, and chicken, and see different kinds of shellfish and fin fish. They also learn about food safety, including keeping foods cold and cooking to the right temperature to kill germs.
The tours wrap up with a treasure hunt that helps kids recall what they’ve just learned. Teachers get a booklet with some of the posters used on the tour and other materials they can review in class. Kids are asked to bring a plastic bag to recycle at the store, and they leave with one of Wegmans’ reusable bags, which contain a loaf of whole grain bread, oatmeal, a fresh apple, and a box of raisins.
Wegmans Food Markets, Inc. is an 84-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts. The family-owned company, founded in 1916, is recognized as an industry leader and innovator. Wegmans has been named one of the ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ by FORTUNE magazine for 17 consecutive years. In 2014, Wegmans ranked #12 on the list.
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