Wholesome fresh food. Once you’ve experienced chemical-free food, you won’t go back – if you can afford it. Take eggs. Fresh eggs have, as Peru’s Steph Prue noted, such vivid yellow yolks “they’re almost orange.” No matter how you prepare fresh eggs, you notice the difference in flavor. They’re just more eggey, and there’s no unpleasant aftermath to the eating of fresh eggs.

Our nearby fresh egg supplier went on sabbatical – and his hens to the freezer – this fall. What to do? Call Denise Merrill. Peru is a bit of a trek for fresh eggs, but no matter.

We’re talking fresh eggs. But, Denise reported, her girls just aren’t producing, and she’s not sure why.

But the Prues’ chickens, 25 of them, are producing nearly two dozen eggs a day. Meeting Steph in the parking lot at Hannaford’s to do the deal, three dozen fresh eggs, for a few bills, was not the stuff of movie thrillers, but I looked around before tucking them in the back seat.

The fresh eggs excursion last week was sandwiched between visits to SAD 43 headquarters and Mountain Valley Middle School. Kathy Sutton and Jeannie LaPointe have adjoining offices.

Fittingly, they’re both in the business of helping our kids learn to love physical activities and wholesome food, a winning combination.

Kathy and her counterpart in SAD 21, Laurie Soucy, have brought over $1.5 million in federal funding for PEP into the River Valley over the past four years. The two-year grant announced last spring enables community organizations as well as the middle schools – including Holy Savior – to purchase fitness and sports equipment for the use of middle school students. Oakdale Country Club, Greater Rumford Community Center, parks departments, Mexico Rec Center, all have added skates, walking poles, the next generation of Dance, Dance, Revolution among others.

PEP is one of the projects that won Mountain Valley Middle School the designation of fifth healthiest school in the United States from Health magazine in September.

Eat breakfast, feel better all day. Another is an idea born in the office next door to Sutton’s. Last March, Jeannie LaPointe, school nutrition director for the district, persuaded Principal Ryan Casey and Mountain Valley Middle teachers to pilot a new kind of breakfast program.

It works like this: Instead of going to the cafeteria for breakfast – which many students skipped so they could be with their friends in homeroom – students stop at a grab and go cart on their way to homeroom. Jeannie said the teachers saw a significant difference in the energy and interest kids exhibited. The homeroom breakfast time is sociable and relaxed. Now, Jeannie told me, 85 percent of the some 320 students eat breakfast, compared to just 35 percent last year. “Pretty amazing,” she said.

Not only that … Mountain Valley Middle School was built in the 1960s on a beautiful piece of real estate with a spectacular view. Inside, though the cabinets in the Nutrition and Consumer Science center show signs of age, the building is sparkling clean, its halls, including the ceilings, showing off student art.

Lorraine Tanguay is the family and consumer sciences teacher – remember home economics? Tapioca. Sunrise salad. Ugh. Lorraine, with Jeannie LaPointe’s blessing, applied for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to implement a fresh fruits and vegetables program involving every student in the school.

The purpose of the program is to introduce students to the value and pleasure of eating fresh produce. On Tuesday mornings, life skills students assemble 22 veggie platters and deliver them to each of the school’s 22 classes. On Thursday mornings, the alternative education students assemble 22 platters of fruit and deliver them. One strong string attached: Classroom teachers must integrate the program into classroom instruction. Students using the library on a Wednesday afternoon can help themselves to a piece of fruit.

Most of us know that if you get plenty of exercise and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, you’ll look and feel better. At Mountain Valley Middle School, staff and students know you’ll learn better, too.

Linda Farr Macgregor lives with her husband, Jim, in Rumford. She is a freelance writer. Contact her: [email protected]

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