Ashlye gave it thumbs up – “It tastes really good, like peach.”
“A little bit nasty but a little bit good,” Azari said.
Devonte said he didn’t like it much, but “I just tried it to try new things.”
The 8-year-olds from H. Allen Hight Elementary School were sampling butternut squash at a “Try It” table as part of a festive “Rock Your Socks Off” lunch party by NUSD’s Nutrition Services on Thursday, Jan. 26.
For each H. Allen Hight or Natomas Middle School student who tried the squash that day, Nutrition Services promised to donate a pair of socks to a needy child through Joey’s Food Locker, located at Natomas High. The goal was to get kids to taste something new to them, a healthy vegetable, in hopes it might change their eating habits forever. A total of 532 students stepped up to try.
“Rock Your Socks Off” also featured a free farmers market of cabbage, oranges and squash, a photo booth, a lunch of California-grown food, and a demonstration of how to make “Awesome Apple Crisp.” Kids were encouraged to dress in 1980s garb for the celebration..
NUSD’s party was a local spin on a statewide event, California Thursdays, that spotlighted a collaboration in which 71 school districts encompassing more than 2,900 schools are committed to serving California-grown food in their school lunches on Thursdays, when feasible.
“When students eat fruits and vegetables that are locally grown and it contributes toward a need, it creates a win situation for all,” said Vince Caguin, NUSD’s Nutrition Services Director.
California Thursdays was launched several years ago by the Center for Ecoliteracy – a nonprofit group promoting ecological education – to benefit farmers and the state economy, promote fresher school lunches, and help the environment by reducing the amount of processed food shipped long distances.
Shawn Martin, of Vierra Farms in West Sacramento, attended “Rock Your Socks Off” to oversee the free farmers market. A former teacher himself, Martin said that he was having fun with the kids and wouldn’t want to miss being a part of providing fresh, local, seasonal and sustainable food.
At the “Try It” table, kids who sampled the butternut squash were given a sticker to place on a cardboard poster, either beside a Happy Face if they liked the squash or a Frowning Face if they did not. About an hour into the event, the sentiment was about evenly divided.
“I think it encourages them to try new things and not to be scared – to be risk-takers,” Principal Stephanie Carlstrom said, adding that risk-taking is encouraged by H. Allen Hight Elementary’s International Baccalaureate curriculum.
“We also want to teach our children to be grateful for our awesome farmers and to know where our food comes from,” Carlstrom said.
“Rock Your Socks Off” showcased two of NUSD’s priorities in recent years: Buying more fresh food grown in California or the Sacramento region, and encouraging students to try healthy foods that may be new or unfamiliar to them.
“When we create a fun and welcoming environment with a good cause, expanding your health and palate becomes a much more enjoyable experience,:” Caguin said.