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Earth Fare teaches about healthy food

East Brainerd’s Earth Fare hosts Family Dinner Nights every Thursday from 4-8 p.m. With the purchase of one $5 adult meal, up to six children can eat free. Children choose their own meals at the Itty Bitty Bites Kid’s Kiosk.

Many children dining there recently tried a grilled cheese sandwich, fruit snacks, raisins and yogurt.

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The Ellis siblings, of Ooltewah, dine at Earth Fare on Gunbarrel Road for Thursday night free kids’ meals. Clockwise from left are Norah, 2, Baylee, 8, Jacob, 4, and Ryan, 6. The children eat grilled cheese sandwiches and peanut butter and jelly roll-up sandwiches, yogurt, fruit snacks, carrot sticks and raisins.

“It’s really important to start healthy eating habits at a young age because those habits stick with you throughout a lifetime,” said Earth Fare Community Relations Coordinator/Group Marketing Manager Abby Shipley, of Ooltewah. “We try to encourage families to eat together instead of on the go, because a lot of on-the-go options are not healthy.”

She said children learn through trying Earth Fare meals that eating healthy can taste good. Children can pick a main dish, a fresh side, a snack and a drink from several options.

Shipley also takes that message to children in local schools, where she talks to them about healthy food options. She discusses allergies with teachers ahead of time and provides the healthy snack examples for all to try free of charge.

“I go into schools and we make healthy banana splits by slicing a banana, adding raspberries, blueberries and watermelon and taking two tablespoons of yogurt and drizzling it on top,” she said. “I tell them that it is important to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and their plates should be full of true color.”

She recently met with Apison Elementary School kindergartners, and in response to her speech, the children made a quilt showcasing drawings of healthy fruits and vegetables. The quilt is now hanging at the store.

“We saw students eating sugar snap peas and kiwi for the first time and deciding, ‘Hmmmm, this is pretty good!’” said Apison Elementary kindergarten teacher Debra Peltz.

Shipley gives students a quiz by holding up fruit and vegetables to see if they can guess the name. She usually showcases zucchini, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, kiwi, pineapple, watermelon, grapes, strawberries and raspberries.

“After Abby's visit we have noticed the students discussing healthy foods and the importance of limiting their intake of sugary foods and drinks,” said Peltz. “At a time when we often hear about childhood obesity becoming an epidemic, Abby and Earth Fare provided a wonderful experience to our students.”

If a school would like to request a visit from Shipley, send an email to cha420community@earthfare.com.

Others who would like to sample some of Earth Fare’s options can receive coupons through a new text messaging system. If a customer texts the letters “EAT” to 71700, they will receive coupons via text for free stuff. Once they show the text at the checkout the items in the text are free.

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