Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables is important to any healthy lifestyle, especially when it comes to children, which is why Madison Wurst, RD, LDN, the Nutrition Educator for Metz Culinary Management, has been traveling to schools served by Metz. At her stops, she promotes the benefits of incorporating plenty of fruits and veggies into their daily diets through a fun and interactive food tasting and education session.
For instance, kindergarten students at Memorial Elementary School in Pennsylvania’s Bethel Park School District got a visit from Wurst for an afternoon of veggie sampling where they tasted individually packaged baby carrots, red peppers, cherry tomatoes and celery sticks. Wurst explained to students how the veggies could be eaten raw or cooked by sauteing, roasting or steaming. She also distributed handouts with nutritional information for students to take home and share with parents.
“The students at Memorial Elementary were very eager and excited to try the assortment of veggies,” she says. “Many of them had never tried a red pepper or a cherry tomato before, so it was a new experience for them.”
Students were able to mark on a worksheet how they felt about each vegetable sampled using smiley and sad faces. There was also an informal Q & A where students had an opportunity to ask questions about each of the items they sampled. Wurst said a popular question in almost every class she visits is whether a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable.
Wurst provides tastings weekly, visiting many different school districts and meeting with children from kindergarten through high school in different settings depending on the location. For example, larger group tasting was held assembly style in a school auditorium in the Philipsburg-Osceola Area School District in Pennsylvania to introduce some 500 students to the benefits of apples.
The sessions are also incorporated into the Metz Nutrition Friends program, which introduces students to a new fruit or vegetable each month in an engaging and informative way. In addition to a tasting, the featured item is also incorporated into menu items served at the school throughout the month.
One example of this was the tangerine tasting in the Ashtabula Area School District in Ohio, which introduced students to a new friend, “Queen Tangerine,” which they learned are rich in vitamin C and fiber, and that they can be enjoyed in salads, desserts, and even main dishes. To cap off their education session, they received a fruit kebob recipe to try at home featuring tangerines.
When visiting high schools, Wurst may also partner with the Metz chef onsite to do a recipe demonstration and tasting, especially with particularly exotic items like bok choy, a vegetable most students have never tried but are eager to learn about.
“Childhood is the best time to learn healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime,” Wurst says. “Introducing children to new foods and helping them to understand the value of various fruits and veggies is an important step in empowering them to make sound nutritional decisions.”