Eat This

Sure, serve more vegetables in schools, but will kids eat them?

Don't miss Ed Bruske's outstanding piece in today's Washington Post (the Outlook Section!Edbruske) about school food, based on his experiences volunteering in a school kitchen.  Also, his experiences as a food-appreciation teacher and school-garden volunteer.  He makes the point that the popular push for more vegetables to be served in schools (part of Michelle Obama's plan and a pending bill in D.C.'s City Council) won't do much unless the food is palatable.  And even then, maybe not.  But Ed's confident that "Kids will gladly eat lots of healthful foods, including vegetables, given a chance to help in the preparation." 

Photo by Ed Bruske.

Posted by on February 14, 2010 at 12:11 pm, in the category Eat This.
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18 responses to “Sure, serve more vegetables in schools, but will kids eat them?”

  1. Ed Bruske says:

    Thank you, Susan, for pumping up the volume on this issue. Gardeners should know that they have a great deal to contribute to the evolving synergy of school food, child wellness and local food–just as Michelle Obama describes. The one problem, of course, is always money. Schools need more of it, both on the food end, and on the gardening end. But at least here in D.C., I think we are near a tipping point where legislators, school adiministrators and parents all agree that something needs to be done, and part of the solution is fresh, local food.

  2. susan harris says:

    Ed, you must have a Google Alert because WaPo’s “Who’s Blogging about this?” feature does not work! I’ve linked to Post articles dozens of times and only 2 have been picked up by that little feature the Post pays for. I told their website manager about it two years ago, have also written to the company providing the service for the Post, and nothing’s changed. Too bad – it’s a great idea.

  3. Elizabeth Stump says:

    Finally someone asking the right questions. If they grow it, will they eat?

    Recommendations: cooked & puree’d carrots added to spaghetti sauce, tomatoes or mild salsa mixed into the beans for burritos, finely julienned/shredded carrots added to rice for chicken/beef teriyaki day… There are many ways to incorporate puree’d veggies into dishes so kids don’t even know. Also, carrots cooked with orange juice and brown sugar is an excellent way ringer kids to try
    them. Also, you’ll have a hard time with kids eating cruciferous veggies. But you can always try to add a little bit of mild Chinese cabbage to lasagna.

  4. Michele Owens says:

    Yeah, Ed Bruske!

  5. Eliza says:

    Parents know that if you give up offering healthy choices like veggies at the dinner table that kids will never develop a taste for them. There’s no good reason not to have vegetables on hand, at school or at home!

  6. Eileen says:

    We all know who the real problem is here! It is the parents not the children. I observed the kitchen and eating habits at school for thirty-five years, and it is always the adults who do not want to give up the money making capabilities of junk food in the school system!

    Junk makes money for the parent organizations, veggies and organic foods do not. Thus, the school systems do not want to put pressure on these organizations, or the school will lose necessary monies to fund much needed programs.

    So, bottom line, until schools are funded appropriately, junk will prevail!

  7. I haven’t read Ed’s article yet, but I can only assume that what turns kids off to school food is similar to what turns off my 94 year old grandmother at her senior facility -its that god awful institutional food, as bland and nasty as the gray-green painted institutional walls. Cooked to be inexpensive and time efficient in large vats…
    Institutions like schools and college food service often turn to the salty fatty fried stuff because it has taste kid’s like, but still is efficient and cheap.
    Okay, now I’ll read Ed’s piece.
    Favorite from high school: the McRib type sandwich.

  8. Old Kim says:

    My kid’s 14 and rather eat a cup of noodles with a sliced up piece of fruit in a brown paper bag. I offer money to get a school lunch to save me time but he says no way. Must be nasty if it’s worse than a cup of salty soup.

  9. Jen says:

    After pushing the “Farm to School” into our district, they are now putting New York State apples on the plates in the lunchroom. I can’t tell you how depressing it is to see more than half of them thrown away untouched. And these are apples! (not broccoli) I don’t know what the solution is but it’s still better than a chocolate chip cookie.

  10. Laura Munoz says:

    I, too, think it starts with the parents.

    I have always given my kids veggies because my mother fed me vegetables, and her mother did the same. So guess what? My kids eat vegetables and usually prefer them to junk.

    Having worked in a high school, I’ve seen many kids who won’t touch vegetables because their parents don’t serve them at home, and they’ve never been exposed. I have 50 & 80 year old friends who still won’t eat vegetables.

    Not everyone is well-educated about nutrition. In fact, I’d say most aren’t. Many years ago, I saw a woman on the bus give her 2-year old Big Red in the baby’s bottle for breakfast. I’m sure she wouldn’t have given this to her child had she known any better.

  11. tibs says:

    My two kids were exposed to veggies and fruit from the time they went from mom’s milk to real food. The one loves all vegetables. The other? Not so much. I still can see her little face scrunching up in disgust the first time she had her pured squash. She rolled it out of her mouth at the first spoonful. They never had soda at home, one doesn’t drink it, the other likes it. Go figure.

  12. greg draiss says:

    Kids would eat more veggies if they were allowed to help prepare them. But why must we place that on the scholls to do. This is yet another parenting responsibilty dumped on the schools because parents are not doing their job

  13. sara says:

    I was in elementary school, right at that cusp before Reagan declared ketchup to be a vegetable. The vegetables on my cafeteria lunch tray came from a can, had been held at a steady temp for probably a day, and were inedible. This is Berkeley CA, circa 1977-80. I think there were a couple occasions where there was an edible ear of corn.

    I liked veggies, too, so the school offerings were like a horrible betrayal. But that was also my parents’ doing, having taught me to like a variety of things.

    Insofar as the ‘if you serve it will they come?’ question, this really cannot fall entirely on the shoulders of the schools. We’re well past the tipping point where parents needs to get more involved and take more responsibility for feeding kids properly. If that takes the form of volunteering in school kitchens, or growing food at home or in community garden plots, great.

    If schools are saying this is too expensive to implement, that’s where volunteers come in to play, where curriculum is developed around food and its growing, and where community gardens become a part of education.

    But… there is only so much that can be done to make vegetables enticing to kids. After a certain point, the kids need to develop some sophistication and learn to like a greater variety of foods. Which means that their parents need to start this at home.

  14. Susan, Thank you for bringing this very important article by Ed Bruske to my attention.
    What a great idea to have the children prepare the food they eat, or better yet, grow it. Farm 2 School has the right idea, to let the kids eat fresh, local produce. It only makes sense! But programs like these face so many obstacles.
    Letting a child grow or even simply harvest a carrot or radish that they will then get to eat, is such an eye opening experience. Every child should have this opportunity.

  15. tibs says:

    When did it become mandatory that schools provide food? In the 60’s? Johnson’s War on Poverty? With all the schools losing funding, will this still be a mandate? Prior to the schools providing lunches, the walkers went home, the bused kids brown-bagged it. I remember when the mandatory lunches started in our school system. I begged my mom to be allowed to stay at school so I could eat with my friends. The first year our grade school gym had not been retrofitted to also be a cafeteria. We got to walk a block to the highschool and eat with the teenagers. Way cool.

  16. Holly Chase says:

    Bring back Home Economics!

    One factor in the problem with food in and out of school is that fewer and fewer households cook from scratch.

    Adults and children who learn how to wash a head of lettuce, shell peas, peel carrots, and core apples develop interest in and respect for what they eat, regardless of whether they buy or grow that produce.

    For an serious, detailed examination of how Americans receiving food assistance could eat better, see:

    http://skiplombardi.org/food-stamp-challenge-the-anthology/

    Holly (at) hollychase (dot) com

  17. Laura Bell says:

    My daughter detests most fruit. My son is the same about veggies, despite our putting both on their plates at every dinner & at least one for breakfast & lunch & snack. Even before they knew the nirvana of candy or soda, these healthy things were rejected. I think it’s a matter of genetics, not parenting. Nature not nuture. But how we handle it from there makes all the difference. My daughter still turns up her nose at fresh peaches or cherry cobbler, and my son grimaces when he is served green beans or broccoli, but with repeated exposure they’ll develop the taste for these things (seeing some progress even in the throes of tweendom). One of my happiest days was when my son joined his buddies at the school garden (of which I am caretaker) and asked to sample various veggies with them. He still wrinkled his nose at most of them, but he did try them.

    As parents we learn that we must keep repeating the same messages over and over (’til we are blue in the face, right, Mom ?). That same concept applies with food. Keep serving delicous, healthful meals and eventually the kids will see that junk food is indeed junk. It may take until they have moved out on their own, but it’ll happen.

  18. gardenmentor says:

    I remember being fed bitter turnip sticks at school lunch. And, the lunchroom monitors made us eat them. And they were nasty.

    With a little help a turnip can be fantastic and still be inexpensive. A little “what to do with this stuff” education will go a long way — in home ec classes, in the school lunch kitchen, and at home!

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