Written by Haley Burns.
An adorable student looks at me with a proud look in her eyes, “Miss Haley, I ate my vegetables at lunch yesterday and so did my friend!” This interaction happens several times a day since I started a vegetable eating incentive program in the cafeteria a few weeks ago. For every serving of vegetables eaten off their trays on Mondays and Thursdays, their class gets a point. The point translates to a sticker on their teacher’s poster hung in the cafeteria. Each month during the town hall meetings, the class wi
th the most stickers from each learning center will receive a trophy (a golden beet!) to keep in their classroom until the next month. I’ve never seen kids eat so many vegetables. They stuff their mouths and yell my name with excitement while food falls out to ensure that I see that their class deserves a sticker. Although the site can be a little disturbing, it truly warms my heart. Kindergarten and second grade are particularly impressive, with stickers literally off of the charts. Even teachers and parents are rallying around the vegetable competitions. The most popular veggies are carrots and broccoli in any form, but especially raw. My proudest moment of FoodCorps thus far was when an entire second grade table chanted in encouragement to another student, “Eat a vegetable! Eat a vegetable! Eat a vegetable!”
I’ve been working to make the cafeteria an educational experience and have also started doing taste tests every Wednesday. So far we’ve tasted mashed turnips and butternut squash soup. After they taste, they vote and the bar graph gets updated to reflect the students’ taste buds.
Another new and successful project was creating an interactive bulletin board outside of my office. Students take slips of paper with a food item written on them and categorize them into “go,” “slow,” or “whoa!” Throughout the day I hear students stopping with excitement to guess which category things should go into. Sometimes they even come into the office and exclaim their shock when they realize things like, “Fried rice is a whoa food???!!” I even hear teachers using the wall as an activity during restroom breaks. It’s inspiring to see the enthusiasm for learning about food even when I’m not physically directing it.