From the International Rescue Committee:
Inspired by March Madness basketball brackets, the IRC in Atlanta’s FoodCorps Service Member, Meggie Stewart, partnered with Indian Creek Elementary cafeteria staff to encourage students to try and enjoy a greater variety of vegetables. Meggie created a bracket of the eight most frequently served vegetables in the cafeteria, including favorites: sweet potatoes, salad, black beans and broccoli. “Veggie Madness” took over the Clarkston elementary school, as students embraced voting for their favorite vegetables with the energy of die-hard college basketball fans watching the final four.
Students were only allowed to vote if they tried all of the vegetables and the cafeteria manager reported that many more vegetable sides were served than in a typical month. During voting, dueling chants of “Broccoli! Broccoli!” and “Sweet potatoes! Sweet potatoes!” could be heard throughout the lunch room, and in the final week more than 600 votes were cast each day!
As a FoodCorps Service Member, Meggie is working to build a school-wide culture of health at Indian Creek Elementary School. During the school day, she teaches hands-on lessons with 1st, 2nd and 4th grade classes, leading activities like planting vegetables and fruits in the school garden, cooking meals, and learning about the food system. After school, she helps to lead three clubs, including Gardening and Cooking Club where students gain a sense of responsibility for the plants in the garden and experience new, kid-friendly recipes like tabbouleh made with green onions and herbs that they’ve grown.
Over three weeks of Veggie Madness, students narrowed down the contenders until lettuce and tomato salad went head-to-head with mashed potatoes for the championship round. After a hard fought match-up, mashed potatoes won by 91 votes.