If you’ve ever visited one of our cafeterias, you may have noticed some beautiful signs promoting fruits and veggies. These posters are part of the Massachusetts Farm to School Project's Harvest of the Month campaign, which aims to "encourage healthy food choices by increasing students’ exposure to seasonal foods while also supporting local farmers and building excitement about school meals.” To support this campaign, Chicopee menus are designed to feature the Harvest of the Month selection several times during the month. Furthermore, thanks to the efforts of our FoodCorps Service Member, Greta Shwachman, students will now get to participate in monthly taste tests, where they can try new recipes with the featured fruit or vegetable.
This past month, Greta held taste tests at two elementary schools--Litwin and Stefanik--as well as at Chicopee Comprehensive High School. Beginning next month, she will also conduct taste tests with students at Lambert-Lavoie. Taste tests are a great opportunity for students to try new foods that they might not typically select from the serving line. Studies show that kids may need to try new foods up to ten times before they accept them, so the more exposure to healthy foods, the better!
For her first taste tests, Greta prepared baked pears using local Bosc pears from Joe Czajkowsi Farms in Hadley, MA. Many students seemed to love the recipe, standing up with their empty sample cups to shout, "it's delicious!" or enthusiastically giving a thumbs up. The most inspiring moments were when students declared they didn't like pears, but changed their minds after tasting them (which happened quite a bit). There were certainly students who weren't as enthused about the pears, but we reminded them to politely say "no thank you" instead of using words like "ew" or "disgusting." A great saying to teach students is "don't yuck my yum." This teaches kids not to disrespect the food choices of others. It was clear from the taste tests that when one student tried a sample and loved it, more students were willing to try it. By the same token, if kids spit it out and call it gross, other students will be less likely to try the sample, even if it's something they would really enjoy.
We are excited to be holding these monthly taste tests, and students seemed really excited about it too! Next month we will be taste testing a new kale salad, so be on the lookout for updates and photos on social media!
In case you're curious about what's in store for the rest of the school year, here are the Harvest of the Month foods for November through June.
November - Kale
December - Carrots
January - Apples
February - Butternut Squash
March - Dairy
April - Potatoes
May - Seeds and Seedlings
June - Strawberries
Parents and students, look for the Harvest of the Month newsletter with your next menu! The newsletter is a great resource that includes recipes, tips, and fun facts!
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.