By Catherine Hallisey
FoodCorps Connecticut Service Member
It all started with me holding up an avocado, screaming enthusiastically,
“WHO IS READY TO GUAC AND ROLL?!”
Unfortunately, my quirky pun did not elicit the response I had hoped for— instead students started groaning, “ewww that’s green” and “where’s the ranch?!” even “I am not touching that!”
Although these comments seem harsh, I was unfazed, for they are not out of the ordinary; in fact, I hear remarks like this on a near daily basis as a FoodCorps service member with the Tolland County Extension Center in Vernon. I am constantly cooking with kids, mostly elementary school students; trying to introduce fresh, healthy foods into their diets. This almost always means having to deal with the one, or two, or even twenty children who are hesitant to try something new.
And oh boy was guacamole a new one. To the after school 4-H club, the avocado I was holding looked like some kind of cross between a snake and a dinosaur egg, and they did not want to touch it. My little cooks were being especially challenging today, it seemed. After the group gathered the nerve to mash up the avocado with some tomato, cilantro, lime juice, and spices, we moved on to cutting veggies, and I started brainstorming how to get these students to just taste a little bit of our wonderful creation.
As I sat chopping carrots with a few especially obstinate fifth graders, I started explaining how nutritious an avocado was …more potassium than a banana, special fats that are good for your heart, fiber that keeps you full, etc. etc. They listened and nodded their heads, but were not persuaded to try the dip that looked different than anything they had ever seen before.
I racked my brain for a new plan, something fun, something unexpected. Then it dawned on me- food art! In what other setting would these students be able to play with their food? I took our giant bowl of guacamole, and started to spread it evenly on plates. I gave each student a plate and various types of cut veggies and let them go wild. Trees, flowers, smiley faces, abstract designs– you name it, and they made it. It was messy, it was chaotic, and it was a success. After all the effort each child put into creating their masterpiece, were they just going to let it go to waste? No! They were going to eat it- and soo
n enough, the “ewws” turned into “yums” and the “I’m not touching that” turned into “it’s not thattttt baddddd” (essentially a 5-star rating when it comes to fifth graders). I sat back, crunching on a stick of celery, savoring my small victory, and brainstorming ways to get the students to try the hummus we’d be making the very next day.