MANATEE -- A dog. A bird. A duck. A beaver.
Those are just some of the animal artworks created out of fruits and vegetables by Manatee County School District elementary school students on Friday as part of the fifth annual Play with Your Fruits and Vegetables Contest.
The contest challenges students to brainstorm, sketch and create a piece of art using only edible objects. The program is run by the Food and Nutrition Services and is open to any elementary school who wants to participate.
At Palma Sola Elementary School, 18 fourth-grade students worked with cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, eggplant and even a pineapple to put together different displays during an hour in the morning. Under the leadership of fourth-grade teacher Chris Garren, the students spent the last week looking over the guidelines and the grocery list to come up with what they'd make. But even
with a weeks' notice, some students planned changed mid-way through the project Friday morning.
Marcia Quebrado's group had planned to create a lion, using a pineapple as the body. But once the students got started, they decided to make a bird instead, turning the pineapple on its side for the body. The students described it as a colorful, Jamaican bird.
"We're excited," said Marcia, a 10-year-old fourth-grade student.
Most of the fruits and vegetables on hand Friday were familiar to Marcia, although she said she had never seen or tried a kiwi fruit before.
"It feels rough," she said of its skin.
Other than okra, all the fruits and vegetables used on Friday are served in the district's cafeterias, said Sandra Ford, head of Food and Nutrition. The foods used on Friday was ordered special out of district funds for the event. The annual event helps familiarize students with food they may not normally want to eat.
"They see them from a different perspective," she said. "This is a teaching opportunity to talk to them about fruits and vegetables."
Jeffery VanBerkel, a 10-year-old fourth-grade student said he had never tried cauliflower, although he said he loves to eat broccoli. After examining and using the cauliflower in his group project to make a dog, Jeffery said he'd like to try cauliflower, too, since it looked and felt similar to broccoli.
"We usually just have broccoli," he said. "Vegetables make your body healthy."
After the projects were finished on Friday, Palma Sola principal Scott Boyes directed the students to display their artwork in the cafeteria. Throughout the day, teachers were instructed to bring their classroom to the cafeteria and each classroom would vote for one piece of artwork as a group to decide the winner.
This year, Bashaw, Daughtrey, Freedom, Kinnan, Oneco, Palma Sola, Prine, Samoset and Sea Breeze all participated in the event. Each school chosen the top three winners and the first-place finish in each school goes on to the district level. One overall winner will be chosen and honored at the district level. The winning team will get a goody bag filled with prizes that relate to fruits and vegetables. In an addition, each site had a culinary student from Manatee Technical College on hand to help staff members cut the fruits and vegetables up.
At Bashaw Elementary School, Superintendent Rick Mills assisted students by helping cut fruits and vegetables. Friday's project was about more than just students getting their hands dirty and playing with food, he said.
"It's all about teamwork and developing a project together and learning more about fruits and vegetables. And to have a lot of fun around it."
Kate Irby, online reporter, contributed to this report.
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.