If you have school-aged kids, or well...if you live anywhere near kids...you can’t have missed that it’s back-to-school time. The airwaves are full of promos for backpacks and new outfits. Advertisers don’t spend as much time talking about school lunches, though.
And yet that’s perhaps where the greatest need lies. More than 60% of kids attending Durham Public Schools qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch. They depend on school meals for their daily nutrition.
Your support has been making it possible for them to eat well and learn to make healthy food choices.
Here’s the impact you’re having:
During the 2018-19 school year, Farmer Foodshare delivered fresh, North Carolina-grown produce each week to all 47 Durham Public Schools, ensuring that all 33,000 students had regular access to the freshest, most nutritious food possible.
With support from cafeteria managers, we conducted 38 taste tests at 18 elementary schools and 2 pre-K’s through our Food Ambassadors program. All told, more than 8,000 students participated!
Those 8,000 kids had an opportunity to sample and learn about a variety of veggies. And then they voted -- loved it, liked it, or “maybe next time.” The big news -- they’re fans!
When the students tried kale, 79% liked or loved them. Collards: 75% thumbs up. Sweet potatoes: 76%! Surprisingly, the kids were less excited about the butternut squash, one of the sweeter options. Only 66% of students liked or loved them. We think it might have something to do with the consistency, and that with a longer cooking time, the kids may enjoy them more.
Encouraging kids to make healthy food choices is a big part of the strategy for Food Ambassadors, and we also learned a few things along the way that will influence our strategy going forward:
Conducting taste tests on Friday / Fry Day makes for some pretty stiff competition. We ensured that every kid sampled the produce by giving the kids a cup of veggies (and again, they liked them!), but left to their own devices and a binary choice, most kids will still pick fries over veggies.
It doesn’t have to be a binary choice! School nutrition staff want kids to feel free to choose as many items as they’d like, but sometimes teachers present the options as “this” or “that.” We advocate reframing the choices as “would you also like…?”
For the learnings to stick, kids need more frequent exposure.
During the 2019-20 school year we’ll be heading back to Durham Public Schools with food deliveries each week. And we’re already scheduling taste tests with cafeteria managers! But on the theory that less is more, we’ll be conducting taste tests at fewer schools with greater frequency.
If you live in the Triangle area and would like to join us, you can come see taste tests firsthand -- we always need volunteers! But even if you’re farther away, your support makes a huge difference. Please consider giving today.
Special thanks to our partners at the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline U.S. Community Partnerships, Durham County, the USDA Local Food Promotion Program, the Z Smith Reynolds Foundation, the Mead Family Foundation, and a host of individual donors for funding our work in schools.