I’ll admit it: I was nervous about serving beets to hundreds of students this month. The question “How do I get 5 year olds to like eating beets?” loomed over me during my planning process.
While searching for beet recipes, I found that beets were treated like the black sheep of the vegetable family. I found countless articles that not-so-subtly dissed them (11 Beet Recipes That Don’t Taste Like Dirt, Perfect Beets for People Who Don’t Like Beets, Food Phobias: How To Make Peace With Beets), but still encouraged people to try them. While I hoped that my students would like them, I also knew that beets may have a bad reputation. In many cases this comes from a strong aversion to pickled beets or canned beets and in some cases (like mine) it comes from hearing negative stories from others that make trying beets a scary thing. I didn’t eat my first beet until I was 21 years old because I had convinced myself that there was no need to try them because I just knew I wouldn’t like them. Once I tried them, I felt foolish for missing out on them for so long.
This is part of what FoodCorps Service Members have to address and come up with creative solutions for: kids (and adults!) who are afraid to try something new because they have a preconceived notion that it won’t taste good and they won’t like it. This means that we have to present the food in an inviting and accessible way and let students explore it in different contexts before they want to try it. By exposing them to new and healthy food in the classroom and the garden, we set students up for success in the lunchroom. So for the whole month of February, the Polson School District is showing beets some love!
February is an exciting month for many reasons: it’s American Heart Month, Valentine’s Day is on the 14th, and beets are Montana’s Harvest of the Month. To spread the love for beets, I celebrated all three of these occasions at once by having students make Valentine’s Day cards using heart-healthy beet stamps and beet juice. In my lessons, I explain that beets are full of vitamins and minerals that are good for your heart. Then we talk about how beets contain potassium, which is essential to keep your heart beating. It’s easy to remember that “beets keep your heart beating” and the kids love to make a beating heart movement every time we talk about potassium.
I’ve found that using beets to make art also helps students warm up to the idea of eating them. After getting their hands on them and using them in a creative way, beets become less intimidating to kids.
A second grade student was so pleased with his beet-dyed card that he told me “For Valentine’s Day, I think I’ll be in love with beets now!”
The kindergarten classes I serve with were eager to try beets after seeing how their bright red juice made such beautiful dye. Once I handed out samples of citrus and honey roasted beets, I had students with bright pink beet-stained smiles coming up to me asking for second and third helpings.
After beet themed lessons and a Taste Test in the cafeteria, I hope that students can replace their negative associations and fear with positive experiences (ex: beets make beautiful art, they grow well in Montana, we tasted different recipes and voted for them at school). Hopefully this will make beets less scary for kids and help them connect with this under appreciated veggie! By the looks of the Taste Test results, there’s a lot to love about beets!
Polson School District #23
Lexie is passionate about experiential learning, working with kids, food justice, and helping others. She has worked with teenagers at a YMCA camp in the beautiful Rocky Mountains, leading backpacking and whitewater rafting trips. These trips taught campers about leadership, service, and Leave No Trace outdoor ethics. Lexie also studied abroad in India, where she learned about sustainable development and social change. She was fortunate enough to work with female farmers in the Himalayan foothills and study agricultural biodiversity preservation, which inspired her senior thesis on seed sovereignty movements as a tool for empowering women and developing communities. In ten years, Lexie sees herself living in the mountains with her very own adventure dog, eating fresh food from her garden, and planning her next international trip to learn about sustainable agriculture and the relationship.