How to Get Kids to #TryThings: Taste Tests

“This almost makes me have to dance.”

“[Kale] tastes like chicken nuggets.”

“Spinach will now be my most favoritist food forever!”

Kids say the darndest things when they try new foods, but it’s not always easy to get them to in the first place. It’s much easier to convince kids to try something new when they’ve learned about in class, helped plant its seed in the garden, or helped cut it up for consumption. Sometimes, however, they’re still resistant. That’s where the humble taste test comes in, creating the atmosphere of excitement that encourages kids to take a taste of a new healthy food.

Taste tests can be set up anywhere, but often take place in the cafeteria. FoodCorps service members have led taste tests of everything from raw apples to Cherokee trout to chicken biryani in just the last year. Here’s how they’ve done it.

Prep the dish in large portions…
Emma Fernandez preparing for a taste test of local carrots steamed with honey and lemon.
Emma Fernandez in Red Lodge, MT preparing for a taste test of local carrots steamed with honey and lemon.
…but serve in tasting portions.
Service Member Noel Webster in Washington, D.C. laid out servings of butternut squash in tasting cups before the rush of excited students.
Noel Webster in Washington, D.C. laying out servings of butternut squash in tasting cups before the rush of excited students.
Use signage to drum up excitement and lets kids know where the food comes from, such as the school garden or a local farm.
Katie Rainwater and Jordain Garretson advertise that the trout is connected to local Cherokee heritage and that has been sustainably raised.
Katie Rainwater and Jordain Garretson advertising that the trout is connected to local Cherokee heritage and that it has been sustainably raised.
Shana in Lewiston, ME was proud of the school garden-grown kale in the hummus and she knew her kids would be too.
Shana Wallace in Lewiston, ME showing pride about the school garden-grown kale in the hummus, knowing her kids feel it too.
Reward participation. Trying a new food can be a scary experience, so celebrate participation even if it wasn’t someone’s favorite.
Sam in Prescott, AZ used "I tried it!" stickers so kids could walk around showing that they'd tried the featured food.
Sam in Prescott, AZ used “I tried it!” stickers so kids could walk around showing that they’d tried the featured food.
Don’t feel tied down to the table where you initially set up. Take the show on the road and bring it directly to ‘customers.’
Leiloni handing out tasting cups of greens, in the Paso del Norte region of New Mexico.
Leiloni Begaye handing out tasting cups of greens, in the Paso del Norte region of New Mexico.
Sit with kids and engage them as they’re trying the food.
Petes not just handing out kale salads and leaving. Hes talking to kids and asking them what they think as theyre eating their salads.
Pete’s not just handing out kale salads and leaving. He’s talking to kids and asking them what they think as they eat their salads.
Ask for input afterwards too. Kids love to chime in, and it leaves you with some easy data afterwards.
Apple taste test in Fayetteville, Arkansas
By making the taste test feel almost like an election, this apple taste test in Fayetteville, Arkansas made kids feel that their opinions mattered.
Instead of just a definitive yes or no vote, Jada asked her Gardiner, ME students which way they preferred their turnips prepared.
Instead of just a definitive yes or no vote, Jada Wensman asked her Gardiner, ME students which way they preferred their turnips prepared.
Stickers can be useful for voting too. These Bruins fans in Gloucester, MA—America's oldest seaport—loved the fresh fish.
Stickers can be useful for voting too. These Bruins fans in Gloucester, MA—America’s oldest seaport—vote in favor of the fresh fish.
Use the results to see if the recipe should be repeated or not. Not all taste tests are successes, but those that are must be celebrated!
The results of a corn and black bean salsa taste test by Emily Seymour, serving in Machias, Maine
Emily Seymour in Machias, Maine reminding kids about the ingredients that went into the corn and black bean salsa while asking what they thought about it.