For almost 6 years, I had an opportunity to coordinate and implement food shows for students in my Central Florida school district. We would bus in upwards of 150-200 students and allow them “taste test” items that could potentially go onto their school breakfast and lunch menus.
The items these students tasted had to receive an overall rating of 70% (or higher) in order to “make the cut”.
Let me set the stage for this process and what was involved. An average of twenty-five vendors would set up the products they wanted our K-12 students to taste in hopes of having them approved by the students to add to the menus in their school cafeterias.
We would typically showcase 150 (or so) items for students from elementary to high school to sample. Sampling these products played a major factor in our districts’ progress and we communicated findings with our internal customers to achieve ultimate success for both the districts and the students.
Getting students to sample center of the plate items was usually rather easy, but there were certainly some challenges in getting students to try new fruit and vegetable concepts. “Houston, we have a problem!”
To increase our opportunity for success, we branched out and revised our efforts and turned the food show into a “Produce Show”.
We used the same concept as before, but asked the vendors to focus their attention, and efforts, solely on FRESH fruits and veggies. I am pleased to say the shift in the process was a huge success!
Students were “going bananas” (no pun intended) over fresh Florida produce. Our 2014 produce show participants sampled recipes that included: eggplant pizza, baked zucchini with Parmesan cheese and roasted chipotle corn, to name only a few. Many of the produce items we made available to students were their first exposure.
Students even sampled Satsuma oranges with mint yogurt dip and broiled grapefruit.
Ok, I am going to have to stop because I am getting hungry just typing about it! My point? When people say, “kids won’t eat veggies”, I let them know they absolutely will. As long as we are giving students the right types of fruits and vegetables and flavoring them to student’s liking…they are very amenable to eating and enjoying them!
So get creative, don’t hesitate to add new fruit and veggie items to the menu and watch the kids clean their trays. You might even benefit by offering a small sample before you add it to the menu to be sure your students will enjoy them, or to get their input on how they might like to see them served.
“Your veggies are served. Bon Appétit!”