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Grist for the Mill: Acquired taste

McClatchy-Tribune
McClatchy-Tribune
 It takes time for kids 
— and adults — to learn to love veggies

Angela Glore’s food column is printed monthly.

Ask most parents about meal times and you’ll hear horror stories about trying to get kids to eat their veggies. Many adults from the “clean plate era” may have stories of their own about sitting in front of cold Brussels sprouts for hours after dinner.

It doesn’t have to be that way. 

 

Studies have shown that people are hard-wired to distrust new foods. It makes sense. We are omnivores and there are foods out there that aren’t safe to eat. Being cautious about trying new foods is an evolutionary advantage.

Taste experts often say that people (kids and adults) typically need to taste a new food 10 times before learning to like it. At home, this means that parents may have to be patient. Keep putting new foods on your kids’ plate over and over again, and you may soon find your toddler choosing peas and broccoli.

At school in Del Norte County, kids are also getting those tasting opportunities. 

The Harvest of the Month (HOTM) program highlights one fruit or vegetable every month and provides taste tests and activities in the classroom. Thousands of local students participate each month and recently, home day-care providers started receiving the education guides for each month so they can provide a healthy start for their young clients.

But HOTM is much more than classroom taste tests. Deborah Kravitz, director of nutrition services for the Del Norte County Unified School District, and her staff feature the HOTM in school cafeteria meals throughout the month, so kids are able to build up to those ten required tastes.

And it works!

Students in fourth, fifth, and ninth grades take surveys before and after participating in HOTM activities. Results for the 600 students surveyed in the 2012-2013 school year show increased consumption of fruit and vegetables and decreases in some less-healthy food choices. 

There’s good economic news associated with HOTM, too. Food purchases for the program are made locally when possible, and local farms will be supplying the produce for six of the nine featured foods in the 2014-2015 school year. That’s good for our local economy.

The bad news is that the Network for a Healthy California, which funded this program for six years, has refocused its efforts and now funds programming through public health departments, rather than schools. A one-time grant from Building Healthy Communities was received to maintain HOTM this school year and a team is working on a sustainability and expansion plan for future years.

The plan starts with over 100 teachers stepping up to lead the HOTM activities in their classrooms to replace the network staff. That’s how strongly our teachers feel about HOTM. The district kitchens will prep taste test boxes for each classroom.

The BHC food team is working with the district and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) to build community support for this vital program. They’re working to expand the concept so our whole community can learn to love their veggies.

They’re also reaching out for community support. Overweight and obese children and youth need programs like HOTM to help them learn healthier ways to eat. It’s good for our kids and it’s good for our future medical costs.

The HOTM promotional show will soon hit the road to visit service organizations, businesses, and other groups that might want to see their name in lights … or at least on every school lunch menu for a month! Monthly sponsorships will let HOTM stay in our schools over the long haul.

So what do you think of Dentists of Del Norte for December? Pharmacies for February? Mothers (or PTOs) for March? I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.

Harvest of the Month works and I think we should — and can — pull together and keep it in our schools.

Reach Angela Glore at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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