J-W Staff and Wire Reports
Fast food is healthy and it's on a roll.
Fourth- and fifth-graders throughout the Midwest will learn the benefits of eating a variety of fruits and vegetables in the Lunch Box Derby -- a program challenging students to design, build and race model cars made of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The program, sponsored by Hy-Vee and the Washington Apple Commission, is intended to give kids a dietary tune-up by teaching them sizes, shapes, textures, tastes and nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.
"The derby promotes good nutrition, emphasizes teamwork and encourages children to be imaginative," said Ruth Mitchell, director of communications for Hy-Vee. "The object of the exercise is to design a car which goes the farthest, not the fastest."
Students divide into groups of four and make an inventory of available parts -- fruits and vegetables of every variety.
Each team designs its vehicle on paper, with the teacher slicing the food to make the necessary parts. The cars can be assembled using only three bamboo skewers, four toothpicks and a rubber band to hold it together. Teams then place their cars at the top of an eight-foot ramp and let them coast.
The top four teams in the United States will win an all-expenses-paid trip to the national finals in Washington, D.C., in late March. The deadline for entries is Feb. 26, 1999.
The derby has drawn thousands of entries since it started in 1994. Past national winners were teams from Oberlin, Kan.; Fort Dodge, Iowa; Weippe, Idaho; Tampa, Fla.; Ashtabula, Ohio; and Portland, Ore.