Becky Naab, a PRC AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the FoodCorps team with the Livingston School District’s Farm to School Program, shares blog six in our weekly series of updates directly from Montana FoodCorps members.

Twenty second graders burst into rowdy applause as I entered the classroom. I felt like a rock star, but instead of an electric guitar, I wielded garden-fresh carrots, radishes, potatoes, parsnips and turnips.

Of course, even a rock star doesn’t build a fan base overnight, and I’ve been lucky that I’ve already had the chance to work with each of the five second grade classrooms in the Livingston School District once a week since the first day of school. For me, the fact that I have this direct time in the classroom is pretty powerful, because I get to spend 25 minutes every day teaching kids about food, where it comes from, and why it’s good to eat healthy, and locally-grown.

Sometimes I feel like I’m training mini FoodCorps volunteers. But what really gets me excited is the fact that every week, every single second grader in Livingston has math, science, reading, gym, art, music, and FARM TO SCHOOL!

Our lessons started at the beginning by planting radish seeds in window boxes. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens with food production, no real radishes grew. The kids had gotten attached though, so we went them home with the seedlings for a little extra TLC.

The good news is that we did have radishes from a local farmer, which I sliced up and brought to class as part of a root vegetable taste-testing extravaganza.

Here’s how it works

Each taste test consists of the five root vegetables I mentioned before: carrots, potatoes, turnips, parsnips, and the almighty radish. After a quick lesson on what root vegetables are, students try bite-sized pieces of each one. Then they record their preference by circling a smiley face if they like what they tried, a confused face if they weren’t sure how they feel, and a sad face if they didn’t like it.

The results are really interesting. Carrots seem to be a unanimous favorite (as expected). More surprisingly, parsnips seem to beat out potatoes. The radishes and turnips get a mixed review. The greatest thing about these tests is that the kids aren’t scared to give the veggies a try, even if they’ve never had them before—yet another example of how kids will eat vegetables if presented in the right way.

While the taste tests have been successful, the real success will be if the kids pick out a parsnip over peanut M&Ms at the grocery store, or better yet, actually plant them in their family gardens. In the meantime, though, I’m confident that they’ll at least enjoy the healthy vegetables that the cafeterias will serve on our October 24th all-Montana meal day. And get this: the theme is “Montana Food Rocks!”