The 'Carrot Lady' has a lot on her plate
Nutrition educator shares healthy lessons with students
You can call her the "Carrot Lady."
Students sometimes do — and at Park Avenue Elementary School in Yuba City, youth nutrition educator Angela O'Rourke shares carrots and others vegetables.
O'Rourke, who began in November 2009 with the University of California Cooperative Extension at its office in Yuba City, teaches students at a half-dozen local schools about healthy eating.
Calcium, she told first-graders at Park Avenue, is important for all those grown-up teeth you're going to be getting. Going over the parts of plants, O'Rourke told the students that we sometimes eat flowers, and cited broccoli as an example.
Her instruction includes passing around a paper bag with a vegetable inside and asking students to figure out what's inside without looking. Radishes have stumped many students trying to determine the vegetable just by touch.
"This one's tricky," the nutrition educator told the children.
Going over the parts of the plant with the first-graders, she asked about one section — and provided a hint.
"It starts with 'R' and rhymes with boot," she told them.
O'Rourke, who has a degree in nutrition and food science from California State University, Chico, also talks about the food pyramid that includes grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meat and fish.
"Cookies are not on my pyramid," she noted.
Robert Pogue, principal at Park Avenue Elementary, praised O'Rourke's nutrition lessons and noted that they enhance other curriculum. Pumpkins brought in the fall were measured to connect with mathematics, and the study of plants assists science instruction, Pogue said.
He noted that third-grade teacher Michelle Howard welcomes O'Rourke's assistance — and how the nutrition educator "provides enriching products to help our students stay healthy."
Park Avenue Elementary first-grader Jose Chavez, 7, had a favorite vegetable — the carrot — and fellow first-grader Joaquin Garcia enjoyed trying to figure out the vegetable passed around in the paper bag.
Schools are working to make sure what they serve in cafeterias is good for kids — and parents can assist by providing their children with healthy foods, the nutrition educator noted. The lure of processed foods, carefully marketed to be tasty, is strong.
"If you put chips next to carrots," she recounted, "what do you think they're going to eat?"
Her own favorite snack is orange juice and toasted bread.
O'Rourke said the agriculture of this region helps with student knowledge about food. She assisted Park Avenue in the "Agribee" held Nov. 12 at the Patrick Ranch in Butte County. Third-graders Maximus Jimenez and Jibran Soto finished in the top half of participants at the event, in which students spell and define farming terms.
CONTACT reporter Ryan McCarthy at 749-4707.