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A young girl smiles as she tries a new vegetable

“So yummy my taste buds are dancing” – A second grader after trying diced sweet potatoes during a taste test.

Working Landscapes &

South Warren Elementary School

Warrenton, NC 

Warren County

Once a month, the students at South Warren Elementary school get an extra treat at lunch- the chance to try a new fruit or vegetable! Staff and volunteers from Working Landscapes set up a taste test in the cafeteria, where they introduce the children to a new food and teach them about how their food is grown.

How It Works

The staff at Working Landscapes coordinate with the school’s Child Nutrition Director to purchase locally grown produce. The cafeteria staff prepare the produce using a tasty and nutritious recipe provided by Working Landscapes. The food is then put in sample cups and displayed at the end of the cafeteria line. Another table is set up with a display about the featured fruit or vegetable. The display includes:

  • An example of how the produce grows in the ground

  • An example of the produce that kids are invited to touch

  • Recipe cards

  • Voting poster- Each child gets to vote on whether the “Loved It,” “Liked It,” or “Tried It.” Notice there is no option to say they didn’t like it!

Volunteers are stationed at the table and throughout the cafeteria to encourage each child to try the new food. Working Landscapes recruits volunteers through their mailing list and churches near the school. Other volunteer sources are the school’s PTA or volunteer group, as well as school teachers and staff. This is a popular volunteer opportunity because it does not take a long time and there is a lot of engagement with kids! These taste test are an exciting way for students, staff, and volunteers to talk about nutrition, healthy cooking, and local produce.

Cafeteria taste tests are a great way to work with schools without disrupting class time. Here are some tips to makes your taste test a success:

  • Start by connecting with the Child Nutrition Director or Kitchen Manager. At South Warren Elementary the cafeteria staff prefer to purchase and prepare the food themselves, but other schools may want you to handle that. For example, Lettuce Learn School Garden volunteers purchase taste test ingredients and prepare them in the cafeteria kitchen. They use this database to find a  GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) certified farm, a requirement for all food served in school cafeterias. 

  • Check with school administrators to see if volunteers will need to complete a background check.

  • Write a press release about the taste tests. This is a wonderful way to highlight the school and promote local food producers.

  • Host multiple taste tests throughout the year to introduce a variety of produce and teach students what is in season. Here is a potential schedule from Working Landscapes:

    • January: Collard Greens​

    • February/March: Sweet Potatoes

    • April: Romaine Lettuce

    • May: Strawberry

    • June: Blueberry

    • July: Canteloupe

    • August: Tomato

    • September: Squash and Zucchini

    • October: Apple

    • November: Kale

    • December: Cabbage




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