TAMPA — Diamond Engram walked through the cafeteria Thursday evening at Sulphur Springs Elementary School choosing her ingredients.
She was on a mission: Create two healthy miniature pizzas, one for dinner and one for dessert.
Things were going smoothly until the fourth-grader arrived at the vegetable station.
"Eww, mushrooms," she cringed.
Even though her creation would be judged, she was the one who had to eat it.
"I'll take the bell peppers," she said.
The pizza-making contest was the culmination of an eight-week, after-school program called Kids in the Kitchen, hosted by the Junior League of Tampa in conjunction with the YMCA. Aimed at teaching the importance of healthy eating, the Sulphur Springs program had about 30 fourth-grade participants. The Junior League holds five similar programs across Hillsborough County.
"We feel like if kids can come to school with their brains ready to learn, thanks to good nutrition, then they will work better," said Lee Lowry, president-elect of the Junior League of Tampa.
Henry Rivers, 9, loaded his dessert pizza with peanut butter, bananas, strawberries and blueberries. He sprinkled peanuts on top for crunch.
But on his dinner pizza — an English muffin with tomato sauce, cheese, turkey and ham — something seemed to be missing.
"I don't like vegetables," he said. He did contemplate adding bell peppers, but one bite into a green slice put a stop to that.
"It taste like grass," he said.
Even without vegetables, he knew why his pizza was healthy.
"Everything on here is either fiber or protein," he said. "That makes my body strong and healthy."
That's exactly why Ikinya Walker, 10, chose to put peanuts on her dessert pizza.
"These are protein," she said. As for the strawberries on top? Those were mostly for looks.
"They remind me of a flower," she said.
To end the night, volunteers offered students a healthy version of soft-serve ice cream. That is, if they were still hungry.
"There's always room right here for ice cream," Diamond, 10, said as she pointed to an area on her stomach. "Always."
Shelley Rossetter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 661-2442.