Judy Spooner Viewpoint: From squash to ‘gator, fifth-graders know their foodThis year, by edict from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, kids eating school-prepared lunch must take at least one-half cup of a fruit or vegetable. District 833’s Nutrition Services staff are doing their best to make the options as attractive and tasty as possible.
By: Judy Spooner, South Washington County Bulletin
Garrett Heavner is adventurous. He’s eaten alligator and squid and likes both.
Alysha Shinouskis hates squid. Maame Amma Adabor said that the frog legs she tasted were “nasty.”
But all have something in common. They are fifth-graders in Michelle Harrison’s class at Hillside Elementary School where I visited last week to see if kids liked the oven-roasted butternut squash that was served at lunch.
This year, by edict from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, kids eating school-prepared lunch must take at least one-half cup of a fruit or vegetable. District 833’s Nutrition Services staff are doing their best to make the options as attractive and tasty as possible.
In Harrison’s class, “fifth-graders eat fruit.” She checks up on what kids are eating.
Good teachers, like Harrison, communicate their humanity and share some of themselves with their students. Though Harrison wouldn’t do it now, she told students that when she was in high school, lunch was a bag of mini doughnuts and a milkshake.
A muffled and quiet whisper of “wow” came from her students because most of today’s kids “get it,” A diet high in fat, calories and salt isn’t good for anyone.
Research shows that kids are likely to eat a food they know is grown near where they live. They are also more likely to eat food they have tasted before. If you don’t introduce foods to children early in life, you can’t expect them to eat green beans.
Also, if adults in the household won’t eat it, kids won’t either.
I wasn’t a big fruit and vegetable eater but I knew that daughters Margie and Laura and niece Karen wouldn’t eat them if I didn’t set a good example. I’ve seen them fight over broccoli.
Fifth-graders, like any random group of adults, had mixed reactions to the squash. Dakota Mueller could become a very good food critic. It was a little too sweet, she said, “but it was good.”
“Never had it and never will,” said Ryan Volkert, who likes bacon and pickles.
I discovered some things about the fifth-graders that I didn’t know. They read labels on food, especially breakfast cereal.
Their favorite school lunches are hot dogs and tacos. I asked them about pizza and they swooned. It’s still a kid favorite, but they know that it’s “sometimes” food and not something to eat every day.
They know people should eat more fish and that they need protein in their diet from beef, chicken and fish.
I asked them if they knew how to cook and if they like to cook. I was amazed to hear that most of the students love to cook and like it very much.
Research also shows that kids are more likely to eat food that they helped to cook.
They also told me that some kids have allergies to peanuts and that exposure to peanut butter poses a danger to them.
Some parents were angry that their children were asked not to bring peanut butter sandwiches to school, I told them. Students said they wouldn’t mind.
That’s why I think fifth-graders, especially those in Harrison’s class, are smarter than grown-ups. They’re more fun, too.