Whenever I encourage students to try new foods as a FoodCorps service member, I am reminded of my own experience growing up. My parents’ rule at the dinner table was always: “try one bite, and if you don’t like it you don’t have to finish it.” I am so grateful for that experience because some of my favorite foods today are items that I was nervous to taste when I was a child.
Now, when I teach students, I enjoy being able to encourage them to try new foods. It is wonderful to spark a sense of curiosity, and, hopefully, jumpstart a healthy diet full of colorful fruits and veggies. I have seen this first hand with my third graders at Farm Hill Elementary in Middletown, CT — one school I serve in partnership with Community Health Center Inc. & Middletown Public Schools. I lead a lesson with each class once a month, and this past month, everyone had the opportunity to try hummus! For many of the students, this was a new food experience. I brought all the ingredients, showed the students how to measure them out, and placed them in the blender. They were excited to see the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil blend together into smooth hummus.
After we were finished, each student got to try a hummus sample with fresh bell peppers and carrots. Those who had eaten hummus before, perhaps at home, or in our school’s cafeteria were encouraging their classmates to try the new dip. Even some self-proclaimed picky eaters broke out of their comfort zone, gave the hummus a taste, and enjoyed it. My picky eater friend, Cameron, was nervous to try the hummus, and stared hesitantly at his plate. When he finally tried a bite, he exclaimed, “I love it!”
After the lesson, another student wrote: “In my opinion I love hummus. I tried it and it was good. My mind changed. I thought I did not like it but I do like it. If Ms. Mariah brought new food I would try it.” As adults, we may be surprised by what children will enjoy with a little encouragement. They may find their new favorite food! Whether it’s a new recipe or a new hobby, trying new things is a great lesson for children (and adults)!
If you’d like to try making hummus, or need inspiration for other new foods to try, my favorite hummus recipe is from 52 New Foods Challenge, a cookbook encouraging folks to try a new seasonal food each week of the year.