Perhaps you’ve heard of some schools implementing bicycle desks – the FitDesks with built-in pedals designed to keep students active while also helping “work off some of the nervous energy that can keep them from focusing in the classroom.” But students at Mary A. White Elementary are using bikes in a new way that engages their school nutrition department. By hopping on a bicycle with a blender attached to the rear bike tire, the students pedal to turn the blender blade and create their own smoothies!

The Blender Bike

The “blender bike” was designed to promote physical activity while also introducing the elementary students to local-grown fruits. Each student spins for 30 seconds on the bike to blend up a mixture of vanilla yogurt, apple juice and “Michigan-grown cherries, blueberries and apples.” Physical education teacher Scott Przystas said by introducing students to the local fruit, the students begin questioning where their food comes from, which can in turn start conversations at home about local produce.

Mary A. White Elementary, a part of Grand Haven Public Schools, introduced the blender bike as another installment in their efforts to promote Fuel Up to Play 60. This program, led by the National Dairy Council and the NFL, is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program, designed to “help encourage today’s youth to lead healthier lives.” Previously, teams throughout Grand Haven Public schools led other health-focused activities such as Zumba events – encouraging students to participate in fast-paced dance classes in order to get them moving. Students in the district also sampled foods like hummus, guacamole and asparagus through the Fuel Up to Play 60 Program.

In the future, Przystas hopes the blender bike will become a reward for classrooms “instead of sweet treats”. So far, so good – fourth-grader Harrison Fogg thinks the bike is really cool. “It’s like a win-win,” he said. “You not only lose weight but you’re eating healthy at the same time.”

Why Smoothies?

According to General Mills, schools across the U.S. are catching the smoothie craze. Per USDA regulations classifying yogurt in smoothies as a “meat alternative”, smoothies can now be served anytime during the school day. And since the smoothies contain yogurt, fruit and vegetables, they can credit toward requirements for all reimbursable school meal programs, including breakfast, lunch, and an after-school snack. Plus, the kids love them. According to Chef Monica Coulter of General Mills Convenience and Foodservice, students are “real receptive to smoothies. They see them away from school all the time. So, they might not always reach for a fruit at school, but they will reach for a smoothie.”

Getting Involved in Fuel Up to Play 60

Maybe a blender bike isn’t a feasible for you program – but it’s not the only way to participate in Fuel Up to Play 60! As we mentioned in a blog from last April, Fuel Up to Play 60 offered up to $5000 per school in school nutrition equipment grants in 2016. Those 2016 grants will continue to be awarded through June 2017, but if you’re interested in applying for the 2017-2018 school year, applications for Fuel Up to Play 60 funding will open this spring. Watch the site for updates, or download a sample application. Remember that to qualify for funding, your school must enroll in Fuel Up to Play 60, have a registered Program Advisor, and participate in the National School Lunch Program. You can read the funding FAQs here.

In the meantime, there are plenty of ways you can inspire your students to eat healthy and be active. Check out some of the “plays”, or ideas and activities, from this year’s Fuel Up to Play 60 Playbook, for inspiration on how to inspire healthy, active kids in your program. Collaborate with your school’s physical education department or head coach to create a plan of action, much like Coach Przystas and the school nutrition department at Mary A. White Elementary. Lead by example! Show the students that making healthy food choices and being active can help them lead happy, healthy lives – especially when the two activities are combined.

Introducing Smoothies in Your Program

What if a blender bike just isn’t for you, and Fuel Up to Play 60 just won’t work for your program? Your child nutrition department can still consider hopping on the smoothie train! Smoothies are popular and trendy with students, and they can fit into the USDA regulations. Serving smoothies is a great way to market to your students, especially to increase breakfast participation and to encourage students to make healthy choices outside of school.

You can experiment with smoothie recipes by adding fresh, frozen or canned fruit, fruit juices, veggies (like spinach, kale, or carrots), and plain or flavored yogurt. Remember that smoothies can sometimes be sugar bombs, so consider prioritizing low-sugar fruits like blueberries; use bananas, mangoes and pineapple in moderation; and if you opt for non-dairy milk alternatives as a base, shoot for almond milk or coconut milk that is unsweetened. Remember to throw in any local fruits or vegetables (and market them that way!) in order to get the conversation started about where the students’ food comes from.

If you’re interested in seeing how PrimeroEdge can help you with your Menu Planning or Production in bringing smoothies or other menu items into your school nutrition program, feel free to check out the links provided. Or, if you’re interested in taking your child nutrition program’s marketing efforts to the next step, please check out PrimeroEdge’s SchoolCafé – designed to connect students and parents with the school nutrition department, and help them to learn more about nutrition.

Tell Us More!

Has your school implemented any “fun” activities like the Grand Haven Public Schools’ blender bike? Are you actively involved in Fuel Up to Play 60? Or, does your school serve smoothies to students? We want to hear all about it! Leave your feedback in the comments below.