WILMINGTON — When Thursdays finally roll around at Denver Place, East End and Holmes elementary schools, students can’t wait until lunch time when they can participate in “Taste Test Thursday” and sample the fruits and vegetables they’ve been learning about all week.
Every Monday, the cafeteria staff unveils a display identifying the “Sample of the Week” and building secretaries begin making daily announcements sharing fun and kid-friendly facts that cause taste buds to water, anticipation to mount, and students to talk amongst themselves as they eagerly await the big day.
Taste Test Thursday is part of a program called “A to Z Salad Bar” that promotes healthy eating and nutrition awareness. Offering students free samples on Thursdays allows students to see, touch, smell, and taste a variety of new foods they might not get a chance to see at home. And according to Jodie Havert, WCS’s director of foodservice, “It’s also a great program to assist in teaching good eating habits at the kindergarten through fifth-grade age group.”
The program, sponsored by Sodexo, the district’s foodservice provider, allows school districts to adapt the program to better meet their needs, so Havert encourages the head cook at each school to choose a recipe that incorporates the sample of the week to share with students.
To date, students have sampled watermelon, eggplant, pineapple, squash, honeydew melon, and mushroom. Future samples include asparagus, avocado, sweet potato, and mango, just to name a few.
The district coordinates in-season fruits and vegetables when possible while also creating dishes students would not typically eat. During the second week of the program, students sampled eggplant with an Italian twist, which found Denver students wanting more only to discover the cafeteria had run out of samples.
“The kids love it,” said Havert, speaking about Taste Test Thursday. “They talk about it all week long.”
When asked if she foresaw WCS working any fan favorites into the regular lunch menu, Havert responded with a resounding, “Sure! The possibilities are endless.”
Information for this article was provided by Diana Miller, who coordinates communications for several area schools.