All hail kale! School cafeteria Nutrition Days allow kids to sample, rate ‘new’ foods

Story and Photos By Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
Kids Clarion

It’s one of those foods that people either love or hate, but cafeteria staff across the Archdiocese of New Orleans hoped their young diners would at least give it a try: kale – finely chopped Tuscan kale to be precise – tossed with Cajun seasoning, Parmesan cheese and olive oil. The superfood was then baked long enough to draw out its nutty flavor,  yet lightly enough to preserve its famous crunch.

On Sept. 18, students at all 61 cafeterias operated by the archdiocese’s School Food and Nutrition Services of New Orleans, Inc., were asked to taste-test samples of the simple yet tasty kale recipe.

Based on the reaction of young diners at St. Dominic, the vitamin-packed vegetable received a resounding thumbs-up, with even some students in the youngest grades requesting seconds.

“The students loved it! The teachers loved it! They’re still talking about it (days later),” reported Sandy Logrande, the office’s purchasing manager.

The kale-tasting marked the first of seven monthly “Nutrition Days” planned for cafeterias systemwide during school year 2019-20. The tastings are designed to expose elementary and high school students to fruits or vegetables that are rarely, if ever, served in the cafeteria. Goals include making young people more aware of healthy and tasty food options, helping them develop better eating habits and preventing childhood obesity.

“A few years ago, we spotlighted watermelon on a Nutrition Day, and now we do watermelon as one of our fruits that we offer regularly,” Logrande said.

Sugar snap peas have also been incorporated into menus as a result of students’ positive reaction to them, and edamame is being considered as a future salad bar item.

“Beets and radishes didn’t make the cut,” Logrande said, chuckling.

To help gauge how well the food-of-the-month is going over, students are invited to cast their “votes” by placing a small pebble into one of three jars labeled “Loved It,” “Liked It” or “Tried It.”

Inevitably, some of the St. Dominic students shied away from the kale altogether; but everyone received kale-themed stickers, coloring pages and a take-home recipe for a kale and apple smoothie.

The featured foods are selected from what’s in season. The remaining Nutrition Days will be: banana peppers (Oct. 16); winter squash (Nov. 13); broccolini (Jan. 15); blood orange (Feb 19); eggplant (March 18); and blackberries (April 15).

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