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Farm to School: Taste Testing

Stephanie Heim, Minnesota State Lead

Red Lake, St. Cloud, Wadena Deer Creek, Willmar, Little Falls, Morris and other schools have found great success with tasting events. Taste tests encourage students to use all of their senses to explore fruits, vegetables, and other farm to school foods.

Morris Area Schools has offered apple and wild rice tastings among others. Students tasted two different apples — Harral Red and Sweet 16. Staff found two-thirds of the students picked the sweeter, Sweet 16 apple as their favorite.

Red Lake partnered with an educator from Extension to lead tasting lessons as part of the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program. Tasting lessons were popular among students and staff alike. Below is feedback Willie Larson and Josh Hovde, school nutrition coordinators, received from a Red Lake teacher.
“The kids loved the green beans today. We did a mini-lesson and I admit I was eating a bean while I gave the lesson. The kids could hear the crunch of the bean and knew they were fresh and thought it was neat when they also hear the 'squeak' when we would bite down. This was also a sign of how fresh they beans were. We talked about the color and that the purple or darker color on the beans were showing they were 'full' of healthy vitamins. They each got to 'taste' a bite of a bean — if they liked it they took the snack. All of my kids ate their beans and most didn’t dunk them in Ranch!”
Repeated opportunities to taste and eat new and familiar foods is required to increase acceptance and intake. Some say that classroom and cafeteria taste testing creates positive peer pressure. If your friend is willing to try the rutabaga, why wouldn’t you? Classroom and cafeteria taste tests encourage students to eat farm to school foods in a supportive environment.

Who can lead a taste testing? Anyone — teachers, parents, foodservice staff, students, and SNAP-Ed educators can all lead a taste testing.

Who are SNAP-Ed educators? SNAP-Ed educators from the University of Minnesota Extension teach students and families the information and skills to maintain healthy diets. They can partner with qualifying Minnesota schools at no cost to lead taste testings and other fun, hands-on nutrition education classes.

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