As first-year service members, we were excited about schoolwide taste-tests but also unsure of what to expect. Would kids really try new things? Would they even talk to us?

Our first taste-test in Brunswick County was in November, and we served sweet potato stew—a hearty mix of sweet potatoes, collard greens, and black beans. The result was overwhelmingly positive. Below is the final tally from one of the four schools that got to taste the stew, and the recipe was similarly received at the other three.

So many students loved the stew! Photo courtesy of service members.

We learned a lot from this first taste-test. First off, kids will try almost anything for a sticker, but even without stickers, most kids are much more curious and adventurous with new foods than we give them credit for. They do have some very interesting initial reactions, though. While every student had their own unique response, the following six were by far the most common.

  1. The Salesperson: The salesperson immediately loves what they try and makes it their personal goal to get every other student to try it as well. They are often more persuasive than any adult, and the more salespeople at a taste-test, the higher the rate of participation.
  2. The Unsure Skeptic: Some skeptics are nervous while others are just generally suspicious. Either way they can usually be swayed to give it a try – especially if a salesperson is sitting at their table.
  3. The Cool Cucumber: These students show no signs of being intimidated by trying something new, but neither do they show signs of excitement. They calmly try it, state their opinion, and move on with the rest of their lunch wondering why you bothered them in the first place.
  4. The Thespian: Whether they are stoked to try it or appalled that you’d even ask, these students have mastered the art of making their opinions and emotions visible and audible to all.
  5. The Resolute “No”: Sometimes stoic, sometimes outspoken, the resolute “no” is often accompanied by head shaking and eye-contact aversion, no matter how many times you ask. Only a salesperson can convince them to try it.
  6. The Storyteller: Common stories include “I’m allergic” (not to be confused with students who are actually allergic), “I tried this yesterday,” and “one time at my house…” Storytellers are often also thespians or skeptics.

At the end of the day, most kids were willing to try the stew, and no matter how they got there our reaction was always the same: a celebration!

This post was written by service members in 2015 and updated in 2022.

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