We knew going into the April Farm Fresh Food Days that wheat berry salad was going to be a hard sell. So we dressed up the wheat berries with a sweet, tangy dressing and added some MI-grown dried cranberries to the mix to sweeten the deal. Check out the recipe here.
For the majority of students in Dexter, this event was the first time they had ever heard of wheat berries, much less eaten them, and (even less likely) enjoyed them. At the tasting table, we were sure to tell students to keep an open mind, and try a few bites before forming an opinion. Research has shown that young children need to be offered a new food 10-15 times before they will eat it [Lerner & Parlakian, 2007]. Considering this statistic, it is actually quite a victory that so many students even TRIED the wheat berries (we gave out more than 800 samples in all 6 schools)! It seems that the positive peer pressure of the school environment, and excitement of being offered a free sample and asked to give an opinion goes a long way in encouraging students to eat foods they may have never tried in another context.
Student responses to tasting the wheat berry salad left us feeling a bit less victorious, however. In general, older students seemed to have a higher opinion of the salad, and adults who tried the samples were very enthusiastic.
Here’s a breakdown of the responses. . .
A conversation with a student at Bates showed us that while students may not like everything they taste, many are internalizing the underlying point of this project:
2nd grader: [While casting a vote] “It tasted a little weird.”
Farm to School Coordinator: “That’s ok, it was the first time you’ve ever had this. It’s likely to taste weird the first time you try anything new. But it’s good to keep trying new things, especially things that are good for you.”
2nd grader: “Yeah, because that helps you stay healthy.”
This student’s ability to articulate what this project is all about really made our day.
Some people find the texture of the wheat berries challenging, and while this was likely a factor this month, it seemed that many students were also not a fan of the dressing, which was a simple vinaigrette of vegetable oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, honey, salt and pepper. Most students thought it smelled appetizing, but some, especially in grades 4 and younger, made comments about the dressing being their least favorite part.
Students at Mill Creek expressed more nuanced opinions of the salad saying things like:
“put farro with beets and feta cheese”
DHS students left comments such as:
“I wasn’t sure about the celery, but I think it works with the cranberry. The crunchy complements the soft berries!”
“It’s different and I like it. It’s a fun texture.”
“Tastes good! Seems healthier than other things on our menu.”
“I really like it! I never knew wheat berries existed. It’s delicious.”
“A little too chewy.”
“I liked the sweetness. The grain was very dense and chewy.”