Veronica Mae Davila says her daughter can be a choosy eater. Leia, a Pinellas County athlete, has texture sensitivity issues and often hesitates at trying new foods.
But over the last several weeks, Leia and athletes across Florida have been taking part in Special Olympics Florida’s Ultimate Fruit and Veggie Battle on our Fit and Well Facebook group. The weekly contest features two fruits or vegetables going head-to-head. Athletes try each one, post photos of themselves tasting the food, then everyone votes on their favorite. The winning fruit or vegetable advances to the next round.
The 14-week contest has tempted athletes like Leia to sample healthy foods previously on their personal “no-try” lists. It’s helped them discover new favorites and taught them about the importance of eating well. The challenge uses a playful tone – “#GloriousGrape and #KookyKiwi are ready to face off!” – to talk about the benefits of each food.
The approach appeals to Leia and her fellow athletes. “It’s been amazing to watch Leia,” Veronica said. “In the last two weeks, she’s had at least four new foods that she wouldn’t have tried before. For her, that’s incredible. And she actually asked for apples after completing the Week Two challenge. So, thank you.”
The Ultimate Fruit and Veggie Battle is part of Special Olympics Florida’s broader mission to keep our athletes fit and healthy. People with intellectual disabilities often have accompanying health or medical challenges, so it’s crucial that they learn how to live a healthy lifestyle that prioritizes eating well, staying active, and getting regular checkups.