It was hot dog day at Killip Elementary School, but students were drawn to a small display in the cafeteria’s corner featuring cups of carnival cauliflower florets atop a scoop of hummus.
“What is that?” several lunch-tray-holding students asked, eager to get their hands – and mouths – on the new, multicolored food.
A tri-fold poster titled “Try Day” listed the food name, ingredients and nutrients. Try Day is a new initiative at the school to introduce students to unfamiliar, healthy foods once a month.
“The research behind it is that if you give kids autonomy over choosing what their options are, then it will make them feel empowered,” said Brooke Kahl, who coordinated Try Day.
Kahl is the FoodCorps service member at Killip. This school year, she has held several tasting events for students, presenting them with items like green smoothies, kale salsa and butternut squash. Many of these foods are made with locally grown ingredients.
Unlike previous tastings, Try Day marks the first time students were given the option to include the foods in the school’s regular menu. After tasting the novelty, students could place a sticker for yes, maybe or no on a poster asking if they would like it on the Killip salad bar.
Student opinions on the treat were as variegated as the cauliflower itself.
Kindergartners were eager to share their positive opinions on the dish, grabbing stickers and voting “Yes.” One student even requested seconds.
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Similarly, third-grader Cristiana Calleros, 8, said the cauliflower and hummus combination was her new lunchtime favorite and wants it to appear in the salad bar.
Her classmate Kalani Johns Alonzo, 9, though, disagreed. Compared to his favorite lunchtime staple – hot dogs – the cauliflower earned a thumbs-down.
Lindsey Benally, 9, joined Kalani in giving the Try Day feature a thumbs-down because, although she enjoyed the yellow cauliflower, the hummus was not to her liking.
Due to the positive student response to the Try Day format, despite the diverse post-tasting opinions, Kahl and the cafeteria team are already planning future Try Days. A dish featuring jicama, a potato-like root, is a contender for next month, cafeteria manager Sandra Pilcher said.
In addition to expanding the lunch menu with Try Day victors, the school plans to introduce produce from the students’ garden starting in the fall.
Chris Wilke, FUSD director of food service, said the Killip garden is the first in the Flagstaff Unified School District with produce certified for consumption in the school cafeteria, following an extensive food safety review process and input from a communitywide garden committee.
Wilke said the cafeteria team will “serve as much food from the garden as they can.”
“Veggie excitement: that’s what we’re all about,” Kahl said.