Taste tests are exciting. They’re exciting for me because I get to interact with a ton of kids, sometimes those I’ve just had in class and sometimes those who I don’t get to teach. They’re exciting for the kids because they involve:
a) free food
b) something different in the cafeteria
c) the opportunity to use their voice and vote and
d) did I mention free food?
This Thursday, I partnered with District 5’s No Kid Hungry Service Member Jessica Ferretti to do a lentil hummus taste test with carrots and zucchini (because summer squash is Montana’s Harvest of the Month in September). I chose to test lentil hummus because we serve this local product, Montana alone produces half the lentils grown in the United States, but few of our students are choosing to eat it when we serve it on the lunch line. After chatting with our Food Service Manager at Elrod Elementary School, Christine, we decided I should taste test the lentil hummus the day before it was on the line.
Our taste test voting method involves beans and three cups (from left to right) labelled “Tried It” “Liked It” “Loved It”
Despite thinking lunch started twenty minutes earlier than it does, the taste test was a success. Not only did 114 students try the hummus, but eighty percent of them liked or loved it!
One fourth grader, Aeron, told me “If there was a choice of ‘I would die for it,’ I would choose that!” His classmate Danielle said it was the best thing she’d ever tasted.
Students who came and tried the hummus would bring up their friends, or sometimes siblings, and encourage (sometimes coerce) them to try it. “It’s amazing,” they would say. Or, “You have to try that stuff it is soooo good.” One boy in particular must have brought at least five friends to our table and he asked over and over if he could vote more than once. He also asked if he could eat all of our samples (another request that I politely declined).
What was really exciting for our lunch program was when a student would ask for more and I would explain that we had to save some for the other students. But, I explained, it’s for hot lunch tomorrow, so you can eat it then. There were fist pumps, double fist pumps, hands thrown in the air and both silent and loud celebrations.
So, cheers to trying new foods and serving up fresh, delicious Montana grown and raised foods in the school cafeteria!
About Whitney Pratt
Whitney serves with FoodCorps in Kalispell, MT with Kalispell School District 5 and the Center for Restorative Youth Justice. She spent last year serving with the North Shore Compact and is excited to continue her service in Kalispell. A recent transplant to Montana from Vermont, Whitney loves every second of learning, growing and trying new things with the children and adults in her community.