Harvest of the Season
Why run Harvest of the Season taste tests at your school?
- Taste tests are critical to helping a child develop preferences for fruits and vegetables. It can take a child up to 10 times trying a new food before they know if they like it. A taste test is also a helpful tool for food service directors looking to test new menu items.
- Harvest of the Season taste tests are particularly powerful because they increase children’s awareness and preference for locally grown fruits and vegetables.
Four weeks prior to the taste test:
- Determine which foods your school would like to highlight
- Communicate with farmer to procure food
- Communicate with food service
Two - three weeks prior to the taste test:
- Find parents/volunteers who will help serve and clean up
- Prepare an announcement for the taste test to send out to school community
- Select recipe for taste test that includes the Harvest of the Season and research nutritional benefits of recipe
One week prior to the taste test:
- Display Harvest of the Season posters in cafeteria/other school locations
- Prepare a taste testing survey
- Advertise the taste test: school newsletter, school website, social media, all-staff email; invite local news outlets
- Gather all supplies necessary
Day of the taste test:
- Announce taste tests during announcements, classroom meetings, and with signs in the lobby
- Prepare a recipe that includes your Harvest of the Season food
- Set up taste testing table before lunch period begins
- Take pictures and share on social media and in school newsletter
- Send a letter home to parents describing the taste test, the food their child tasted, and the recipe to try at home
- Have a classroom tally the results of the taste test and post them on a bulletin board or in the school newsletter
Adapted from Vermont Farm to School: A Guide to Taste Testing Local Food in Schools and EATS Taste Test Protocol
Procurement/Food Service Relationship
Collaborating with food service personnel is key to the success of your taste test! If you’re not sure whom to connect with, Utah Child Nutrition Programs (firstname.lastname@example.org, 801-538-7680) can help put you in touch with the district-level food service director, who in turn can introduce you to the kitchen manager at the school(s) where you’d like to do taste tests.
How can I collaborate with Food Service to do a taste test?
Be sure to share with food service staff all the ways that taste tests help them. Taste tests allow students to provide input on new menu options and can generate more excitement about the school meals program. Sit down with the kitchen manager or menu planner and figure out how you can coordinate your taste test to support items that are already on the school menu. Work out logistics beforehand: Will you be in the cafeteria or a space nearby? Would food service staff prefer you offer samples to students waiting in line, bring them to the lunch tables, or set up your own tasting station in the back of the room? School staff will know the best way to run this experience without disrupting regular operations, which will help ensure your taste test goes off without a hitch.
Where can I get local food?
You can buy Utah-grown food for your taste test directly from a farm, at a farmer’s market, or even at some grocery stores. Sometimes school food service programs will also be able to ask their mainline food distributor to deliver local products. To find a list of local farmers and ranchers who are interested in selling to schools, visit www.utfarmtofork.org.
Who should pay for the food?
Fortunately, taste tests require a relatively small amount of food, so buying the food is simple. Purchasing food for taste tests is an allowable cost for school food service programs, so first ask the district food service director if they would be willing to order and pay for the food. Oftentimes they will be willing to cover the cost if you do the work of finding the farmer and picking up the food. You can also fundraise, ask for donations, or see if another community organization is willing to fund the taste test.
Where should I prepare the taste test?
In an ideal world, taste test items will be prepared in the school kitchen—it has all the equipment you need and has been inspected for food safety by the health department. At a minimum, food must be prepared in a clean area with handwashing facilities.
Make sure everyone preparing food has a current Utah food handler permit.
Below is a list of possible recipes to use during cafeteria taste tests. We encourage you to use recipes outside of this list and to communicate with food service to see what Harvest of the Season recipes they could add or have already added to the school menu. More recipes can be found here.
Recommended Survey Method
One of the key parts of a taste test is getting feedback from children about what they think of the food they’re tasting. Surveys to get feedback can take many forms. One survey method is detailed below. For other ideas, see Other Survey Methods below.
- On a piece of chart paper, make three categories: “Loved it!” “Liked it!” “Tried it!” Please also include the languages most popular at your school (Spanish, for example: ¡Me encantó! ¡Me gustó! ¡Yo lo probé!).
- For each child that tries the food, give them a sticker. You can purchase special “Tried it!” stickers in English and Spanish or use any type of sticker you have available.
- After trying the food, have students post their stickers on the sections that represents their opinions.
- After the survey, tally the numbers for each category.
Other Survey Methods
- Print out more detailed surveys for students to complete. These surveys are best used when taste testing a food item that food service staff is considering adding to the menu. More detailed feedback will give a better understanding of students’ opinions on the food and likelihood to try it. Two templates for surveys can be found at the following links:
- Have buckets with different opinion statements written on them. Students can drop pieces of paper in the buckets that best fit their opinions.
Why is marketing a Harvest of the Season taste test important?
A main reason to host a Harvest of the Season taste test is to raise awareness about local food in schools. The more people that know about your taste test, the more awareness raised.
- Cafeteria signage: Print these signs below and post them around the cafeteria and school bulletin boards.
- Send a letter home to families telling them about the taste test
- Share information about a taste test on your school’s Instagram, Facebook, and website. When sharing on social media, use these suggested tags:
- Hashtags: #Farm2Fork #UTFarm2Fork #HarvestoftheSeason #HOMTasteTest
- Tag: @UTfarm2fork