BY: Follow @LizWFB
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extolled a local elementary school in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. for making its students try broccoli gratin, Tuscan kale, and beet hummus, as an example of the department’s efforts to fight obesity.
Clinton Elementary School held a “taste test” to preview food that will soon appear on the lunch menu, and was highlighted by USDA for its healthy eating efforts.
The Poughkeepsie City school district received a $100,000 grant from the USDA for its “farm to school project,” which it is using to add items such as “butternut squash puree” to school menus. The funding was authorized by the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama.
Deborah Kane, the national director for the USDA’s Farm to School program, which spends $5 million a year to support school gardens, insists that third graders just need to try kale, chard, and collard greens in order to like them.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve told my children, ‘Go on, give it a try,’ or, ‘Try it, you might like it,’” Kane wrote on the USDA blog. “Tired as those two phrases might be, they’re true. How do you know if you like something if you’ve never tried it?”
“And when it comes to leafy green vegetables and third graders, the truth is, many have never tried things like kale, chard or collard greens,” she said.
Kane then pointed to Clinton Elementary for handing out a “different kind of test” to its students, quizzing children’s healthy eating habits.
“’Taste tests’ give children an opportunity to try new, healthy foods and, equally important, they give schools good information about how to introduce healthy, new foods on the school menu,” she said.
“Say for example a school would like to serve butternut squash. Are the kids more likely to eat it when it is pureed or baked?”
The school hosted parents and students for an open house, where they sampled food that will soon appear on the school menu, including “broccoli gratin, roasted root vegetables, carrot and butternut squash puree, Tuscan kale and white bean ragout, and beet hummus.”
Alan Muhlnickel, the food service director for Poughkeepsie City school district, said the students got to vote on which vegetables they liked, calling it “democracy in action.”
“The taste test was part of a broader initiative to bring more local and regional foods into the school cafeteria via the Poughkeepsie City Farm to School Program, a USDA Farm to School Grant recipient, so all of the items sampled that night were from local farms,” the USDA said.
Kane said kids enjoy the healthy eating “tests” much more than learning math.
“There’s usually a little wave of anxiety when a math test gets handed out,” she said. “But when the test involves tasting different heirloom apples, describing the subtle variance between three varieties of strawberries, or discovering that butternut squash pureed with carrots is sweet and delicious, well, kids are lining up for those tests and passing with flying colors.”