I made a salad with my students. I was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution when he had students identify vegetables or not identify them as the case may be (episode one). As you can imagine I really enjoy that show.
I brought in bags of lettuce, whole tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, and shredded carrots. Also a couple large bowls, a large cutting board, a knife, and tongs. It was at the end of the day so the kids might have been a little hungry or at least ready for a snack.
Everyone got a job (passing out forks, plates, even napkins this time) and I involved as many as I could in food prep. We dumped the lettuce into the bowls as well as the shredded carrots. To chop up the broccoli, tomatoes, and cucumbers, I did some hand-over-hand while holding a knife. The kids approached the tomato as if to stab in “psycho-style.” With hand-over-hand instruction they figured out how to cut into it the right way. I was amazed both by how unfamilar they were with proper knife use and then by how quickly they learned how to hold it properly for efficient cutting.
We got a little salad on everyone’s plates. I also had full-fat Ranch dressing to help things along and that got passed around.
I mostly saw grimaces although one student dived right in before I said “Let’s eat.” I gave them one instruction, “I’d like it if you tried every vegetable.” I would never force food on anyone so instead I quietly encouraged. The kids started gnawing on the shredded carrots immediately. Not every child tried every vegetable and a few didn’t eat anything.
But there was this one kid. He told me, “I don’t like lettuce, broccoli, tomato, or cucumber.” I said, “Well, I’d like you to try each one again… Just to make sure.” So he bit into the tomato first. I left him mid-bite and came back a short while later to see him chomping into the cucumber and then on my third trip around his chair, he was trying the broccoli.
I saw that he had made a dent in his salad. I asked him, “Did you like what you ate?”
“I like tomato and cucumber.”
I was pretty thrilled. Most of the kids didn’t have vegetable breakthroughs that day (and I believe you need to eat something more than 10 times to develop an opinion on it). Only the student who started eating before I said “go” wanted seconds.
But one kid’s mind had changed. Can you imagine if one student changed their mind in every classroom? In every school? In every state? And if it happened every day? Could we reverse current obesity trends and help all kids make better choices one child at a time? A teacher can dream.