Written by: Aislíng Mitchell, FoodCorps Service Member with Oakland Unified School District
I’ve always loved working with school gardens to grow healthy, happy kids. But I want to make sure our hard work continues outside of our garden walls. My new strategy started when I discovered our school’s farmers market always had leftover kale. I questioned our local parents and discovered that the parents in our community did not believe their kids would eat this dark green leaf.When supporting a community with limited funds, it is important to make sure not only our students try new things but that they tell their parents what they tried and how they liked it! The key is to limit the ingredients so that even my kindergarteners can tell their families how they like to eat kale or any other vegetable they try in the garden.
The best way to promote a “trying veggie culture” is to include your students in every step along the way. My students planted kale seeds, transplanted our newly-grown kale seedlings, carefully watered them, found the slug eating our plants a new home, and snacked from the kale plants at the end of every class.
I feel tremendous buy-in from my students when they are involved in creating our recipes. I bring dressing-making ingredients and let my students guide the final taste. If one class wants to put a little more lemon juice or a splash more olive oil, I’m all for it! In this case the class voted to use the oranges from our garden rather than the lemons I brought in to make our dressing a little sweeter.
We made the simplest and most well-received kale salad! Only four ingredients to ensure the students can tell their parents exactly what they were eating and how to make it. We hand-shredded our kale, added student-squeezed orange juice, olive oil, and a dash of salt. Simple kale and a little kid-friendly dressing.
Seeing how all these small tasks added up to a monstrous kale salad for every class delighted the students and every single kid tried their self-created salad! Some students even took our kale salad home for their families to try.
The biggest success was seeing the increase in kale purchases at the farmers market the following week! Students were able to tell their parents the name of the vegetable, what it tastes like, and how to make it into a delicious meal.
“That leaf is called dinosaur kale because it has skin just like a dinosaur!” said a proud 1st grader at our school’s farmers market letting his mother know what he learned in garden class this week.
Now our parents and family members feel confident their money will not go to waste and their kids will happily eat kale until their tongues turns green!
Steps to get your kids eating veggies with a smile:
- Grow your veggies
- Care-take your veggies
- Experiment while cooking your veggies together
- Keep it simple and tell your community!
- Try your veggies together
- Celebrate the try!
About the Author:
Aislíng Mitchell is serving with FoodCorps and Oakland Unified School District after finishing up a Biology degree at University of California, Santa Cruz. She has volunteered with many school gardens and takes great pride in seeing her students grow as veggie lovers and gardeners. You can find her teaching garden education classes in OUSD Monday through Friday and exploring opportunities for growth on the weekends.
Oakland Unified School District, through its Nutrition Services program and in partnership with East Bay Asian Youth Center, sponsors thirteen after-school produce markets throughout the district. The Oakland Fresh program seeks to provide at-cost fresh and locally grown fruit, vegetables, eggs, and nuts to school communities. A total of 70% of the students at these schools qualify for Free or Reduced Priced Lunch, and the produce market encourages healthy eating habits both at school and at home.
FoodCorps is a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy. To find out more, please visit their website.