from the Holt Elementary School Taste Test
by Annie Kersting, Americorps Service Member, hosted by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle
I precariously push a cart of carefully arranged paper cups down the narrow aisles of the Holt Elementary School cafeteria. As soon as I make eye contactwith a familiar face, a whole table of small bodies leap from their seats to a chorus of “Ms. Annie! Ms. Annie!” I am overwhelmed and warmed by their enthusiasm, and after I remark so to their teacher, she nods knowingly, “first graders will do that.” I have been visiting their classroom for five months now teaching short lessons on food nutrition and growing food in our school garden through Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Urban Agriculture Education programs and the FoodCorps, Americorps program.
Our latest lesson was on the “squash family” and learning about pumpkin’s oddly-shaped cousins. We ended the lesson with a school-wide taste test of butternut squash with Farmer Foodshare.
The first graders’ review of the cinnamon and sugar roasted vegetable was resounding approval, their affection for the new food intertwined with their enthusiasm for interacting with an exciting visitor. The third graders I visit next are not as easily impressed. Many show us thumbs sideways, an indication of “it tasted ok” on our taste rating scale. Braedyn confidently leans into a table and recounts his childhood hatred of coconut, and then his change in preference as he got older and enjoyed it.
Our message to students: you don’t have to like everything you taste, but don’t be afraid to try it. I work with the hope that students are learning to be open-minded about new foods and aware of how food choices affect their health. I am learning that it is not just multiple exposures to vegetables that fosters this, but the people involved (teachers, cafeteria staff, and exciting visitors like Braedyn and other Farmer Foodshare staff and volunteers, as well as myself) to ignite enthusiasm and tell stories that make the food familiar.
The Food Ambassador Taste Test program has successfully concluded for the semester. You can support next semester's Food Ambassador Taste Test program by making a donation today.
Special thanks to folks like Annie from Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and FoodCorps, Durham Public Schools, each and every Cafeteria staff and manager who are so deeply passionate about serving students, Jim Keaton and Becky Pope of the Durham Public School's nutrition programs, the DINE program, former Farmer Foodshare superstar - Camilla Posthill, parents, community members and other folks who volunteered their time and gifts to ensure that students experienced fresh, healthy and local food at lunchtime every day. Braedyn Mallard, Farmer Foodshare's own Registered Dietitian and Food Ambassador Program Manager deserves a resounding round of applause for his dedication and enthusiasm to living the belief that ALL people deserve fresh, local food. Stay tuned for more opportunities to volunteer in a school cafeteria near you next semester.