Poff students compete for better health in Great Veggie Challenge

Tuesday, February 18, 2020 | 3:30 PM

Poff physical education teacher Paige Serbin is always thinking of ways to help promote healthy habits with her students and their families.

While swimming at the Cranberry YMCA, one such idea popped into her head. “I saw this great, fun place for kids to play and thought how nice it would have been when my kids were younger to come here in the winter and play,” said Mrs. Serbin. “Then I immediately thought of my students and families. Active parents usually produce active kids.”

Mrs. Serbin pursued obtaining family passes from the YMCA in Cranberry and also the Baierl Family YMCA in Franklin Park that could be used as rewards for her students for healthier living. “Both were very generous in donating passes,” she said.  The hard part, she noted, was coming up with a way to raffle them off that was equal for all students and would enhance student learning.

Thus was born the Great Veggie Challenge.

The premise was simple: every time a student ate a serving of vegetables during the month of January, they would fill out a slip with their name and the name of the vegetable they ate, and drop it into a big box. Veggie eating both at school and at home counted. Once the challenge was over, winners were drawn at random from the box.

“The kids really went to town with it,” said Mrs. Serbin. “The cafeteria workers said they needed to double their veggie orders.”

Second grader Jackson Caderette said he doubled up on the number of salads he was eating during the challenge because it was an easy way to get in veggie servings. Jackson said even though the Great Veggie Challenge is officially over, he plans to continue making vegetables an important part of his daily health habits.

Classmates Skylar Poslusny and Ayden Mussari also pledged to continue eating more vegetables, and suggested others should do the same. “It will make you healthier so you should do it,” said Ayden.

Mrs. Serbin said she is pleased with how the Great Veggie Challenge turned out. “I even had a parent email me about how transformative it had been for her daughter.”

She said if nothing else, she hopes the challenge helped her students and their families to make healthier choices that will stick with them. “One thing about teaching health concepts, most people know what is healthy, but getting people to put it into practice is what is most important. So, we all know to eat our vegetables, but actually eating them daily is the key to good health for a lifetime.”