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Fear Factor

A new program at a local elementary school is designed to get more kids to eat their vegetables. KSMU's Michele Skalicky has more.

On a recent morning at Century Elementary in Nixa, kids were trying something new.

Each student who went thru the lunch line had the choice of trying sugar snap peas, a vegetable many had never had before.

It's part of the Fear Factor program, which started last month with cauliflower. One day each month, the students at Century get a chance to try a new vegetable. If they do, they get to sign their name to a poster. When everyone's done eating, Century Principal Kevin Kopp asks everyone who ate the new food to stand up, make their best battle faces and shout "fear was not a factor for me!"

2nd grader Alyssa got to stand up. She says she liked the sugar snap peas.

"It was good."

Her classmate Palen Sherrell liked them, too.

"It was really good, better than the cauliflower."

So did Matthew Barkus.

"Well, it was kind of sour, but I liked it."

But Josh Mullen wasn't so enthusiastic about the sugar snap pea he tried.

"I didn't like it so much. I didn't chew it, though."

Ty Robb wasn't too excited about the new vegetable, but he liked the cauliflower he tried last month. And he says he's not apprehensive about tasting veggies he's never tried before.

"I always want to try new things."

Kevin Kopp says they make it a contest between the grades, which helps encourage kids to try their vegetables.

He says the program is provided by Nixa's food service, but the administration at Century decided to create the poster for kids to sign of they try the month's fear factor vegetable.

"The hope is that, you know, for whatever reason the kids grow up, and they think vegetables are gross. So, we thought, 'why not fight this perception by bringing it to the kid level and basically double dog dare 'em to eat their vegetables so that they can sign their names. And the neat thing is you see positive peer pressure happening because if my friend to my left is eating theirs and gets to sign their name, well, I'm going to do it, too. And, I think they bigger victory is that they're trying new things that they've never tried before."

Kopp hopes that even if the kids don't like the vegetable now, they'll at least have been exposed to it, and may eat it later as their taste buds mature.

He hopes the bigger picture will show kids eating healthier because of programs like Fear Factor.

"I really believe we have a place here as a school to fight childhood obesity because it is my opinion that we should be the model, you know, schools should be the model for students. They should be able to learn not only their ABC's and mathematics and and 1, 2, 3's, but also we should be teaching the whole child, and a piece of that is nutrition. Kids that are healthier, that are eating better, that are living more active lifestyles will typically perform better in their studies out on the ball field. I've even told the kids it's as silly as reaction times on their video games, you know, by being healthier, you might just improve that, so it effects everything they do here and so it definitely has a place."

The Fear Factor program will continue each month throughout the school year at Century Elementary.

For KSMU News, I'm Michele Skalicky.