Philadelphia students get their fruit fix
Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiatives gives public school students the opportunity to run their own fruit stands this semester
March 13, 2013, 9:24 pm·
This semester, the Agatston Urban Nutrition Initiative’s Fruit Stands have changed their business model by allowing public school students to take the lead.
AUNI launched student-supported Fruit Stands, through which Penn students work with public school students to prepare and sell fruit, fruit salads and smoothies to their classmates during the school day.
“We’re now using Penn students as the pin to fasten the program and so they’re basically acting as teacher[s] to the actual students and we’re allowing [the students] to spearhead the programs,” Wharton and Engineering sophomore and AUNI Director of Marketing Jeff Chudakoff said. Approximately 20 Penn students are currently involved in the program.
AUNI began in 1995 with one fruit stand. Since then, AUNI, housed within Penn’s Netter Center for Community Partnerships, has expanded into over 20 schools in Philadelphia.
AUNI works in local public schools to provide students with “hands-on experiences … to grow, cook, consume and sell healthy foods,” according to the program website. Through this new program, the students learn business skills along the way. Under Penn students’ supervision, they choose the fruit that they believe would appeal to their peers and decide on portions and pricing.
“Penn students can go to a school, partner with students at that school and together, drastically alter the nutritional landscape in that neighborhood by opening doors to healthy food options for snacks to students that go to schools in the community,” said AUNI Academically Based Community Service and Student Engagement Coordinator Jarrett Stein.
“These are places that just don’t have the options of healthy food otherwise,” he added.
The new program is at approximately 10 percent capacity in terms of its goal.
“Our goal is to run a fruit stand every single day at all of our schools,” Stein said.
The program affects the entire community. “When they open up a fruit stand, every single kid at that school is then exposed to one of their peers who is selling them healthy snacks,” he added.
“We work in 26 schools, so if we have a fruit stand every day at each of those schools we can add something like 26,000 pounds of produce to the community,” College senior and AUNI Student Engagement Leader Nellie Catzen said.
To spur motivation, student teams compete with one another. Students who bring junk food to school can trade it in for a piece of fruit.
“I have the kids who are running the fruit stand — if it’s a bag of chips or something — I have them open it and as they’re putting it into the trash can, crush it up and throw it away,” she added.
While Penn students — who can get involved by volunteering or through work-study — instruct and supervise the program, the public school students are given the power to direct the fruit stands.
“We really do a lot to give the power to the students,” said Catzen. “The Penn students ideally aren’t doing much — they’re supervising and energizing.”