Sen. Tom Harkin Visits Brubaker Elementary

Sen. Harkin visits with 3rd grade students at Brubaker Elementary School.

Sen. Harkin visits with 3rd grade students at Brubaker Elementary School.

Sen. Tom Harkin looked more like a kind grandfather than a United States Senator as he sat at a table with 3rd graders in Mrs. Elrod’s classroom, all of them eating apple slices from a bag. He’s retiring at the end of this year, and came to see how the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Program he authored more than a decade ago is being received by students at Brubaker Elementary.

“We started in 2002, before you were born,” Sen. Harkin told the class between bites. “Now, almost every (elementary) school has this.”

The children in Mrs. Elrod’s and Mrs. Hotchkiss’s classrooms told Sen. Harkin about their favorite fruit and vegetable snacks. Jicama, a root vegetable, came up several times.

“I’ve never had a jicama,” he said. “Where can you get one?”

“At the store!” several children said in unison, followed by some laughter.

Jicama is one of many pieces of produce students have had the opportunity to eat. Thanks to Sen. Harkin’s program, DMPS can dish out 11,850 snack-sized servings of fruits and vegetables four days out of the week. The total cost of the program is $700,000 annually, and is paid for through the Farm Bill.  Twenty-eight DMPS elementary schools are enrolled in the program.

Research has shown students who participate in the program eat more fruits and vegetables overall, impacting their health on and off school grounds.

The conversation started with fruits and vegetables, but soon wandered onto other interests.  The 3rd graders asked questions about his job in Washington, D.C., and were impressed to hear Sen. Harkin knew President Barack Obama.  They seemed even more impressed to hear he knew First Lady Michelle Obama.

“She has a vegetable garden at the White House,” Sen. Harkin told the children.

The adults in the room mostly watched as the children spent so much time talking with Sen. Harkin, the book selected for him to read to the students sat unopened as time ran out.

Before he left, he reminded students to eat more fruits and vegetables, and to keep reading.

“Read because your mind makes the picture better than what you see on T.V,” he said.

“And reading makes you smarter,” 8-year-old Marisa Kniesly chimed in.

“Yes, it does.” said Grandpa Harkin with a smile.

Wednesday’s visit was one stop of many on Sen. Harkin’s “Legacy Tour,” giving the senator an opportunity to reflect on his many successes in Iowa and beyond.

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