Karen Davison is the FoodCorps Fellow in Washington, DC. In her role, she supports a team of 11 FoodCorps Service Members who bring healthy food and school garden education to schools across the city. Learn more about DC FoodCorps here!
This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:
My first year as a FoodCorps service member, I hosted monthly taste tests of seasonal produce in the cafeteria. The first month, we tried cooked carrots. Students and staff alike approached my table with apprehension and mistrust — “Why are you here?” “What are you promoting?” “Is it healthy?” One by one, they filed by the table, quickly tasting the food and casting their vote with wooden coins in a milk jug. Even with the familiarity of carrots on my side, the “loved it” bucket had very few coins compared to the politely-stated “tried it” jug.
The next month, I decided to approach the taste test differently. I was starting to build rapport with students and teachers outside of the cafeteria and was able to schedule at least a lesson per grade leading up to the taste tests. Students started seedlings, harvested what was in the garden, learned nutrition facts — all corresponding with that month’s produce in the spotlight: butternut squash.
When the day came for our second taste test, the 5th grade class helped peel and cube the squash. I set up my table in the corner of the cafeteria just as I had before, finished preparing the butternut squash and waited for the first lunch period to begin. As the first students filed in, they slowly started to notice my table. Hands went up in greeting and the air started bubbling with excitement: “Did we grow that?” “Is that from the garden?” “I wonder if we can get seconds!” The students sampled the squash and, again, cast their votes.
Although there were still plenty of “Tried it” votes, the attitude about trying food had already started to shift. Watching students get excited about new food and then talking about what they liked or didn’t like about the recipe was my Farm to School “aha” moment. Getting students involved with their food — cooking, growing, harvesting, even just touching — is immensely successful in changing student’s food preferences, choices, and attitudes.