Carrot Taste Test Photo

FoodCorps & Farm to School

FoodCorps & Farm to School
in Northwest Michigan

In addition to foods served, for the past four years, the External LinkGroundwork Center (formerly the Michigan Land Use Institute) has worked with TCAPS and other area school districts to offer resources for locally-based food fundraisers, classroom-to-cafeteria educational curriculum, and classroom education through External LinkFoodCorps.

On September 1, 2015, External LinkMSU Extension in Grand Traverse County (MSU-E) began hosting one of the Traverse City based FoodCorps service members. Groundwork and MSU-E are developing a team approach to support farm to school programming in the northwestern MI region, with service members bringing nutrition, garden and culinary education to Traverse Heights Elementary School. Together with the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District (TBAISD), this team will continue to build community partnerships to strengthen connections between the community, classroom, and cafeteria.

For more information about these efforts, External Linkvisit the TBAISD’s Farm to School website, or contact Meghan McDermott or Sarah Eichberger.

Monthly Taste Tests a Favorite With Students

In partnership with FoodCorps, TCAPS Food & Nutrition Services conducts monthly taste test activities for students featuring local, nutrient-rich foods. Past taste-testings have including recipes such as the white bean ranch dip, apple carrot slaw, kale chips, and the Moroccan carrot salad, which has since been added to the regular lunch menu. Many of these taste-testings have had a great response from the participating students and will be a continuing emphasis by TCAPS.

This Month's Taste Test

Baked Parsnip Chips

Baked Parsnip Chips

February 2, 2018:  Approximately 293 students from Cherry Knoll Elementary School participated in the voting for the taste test. Of those 293 students, 24% (71 students) voted “Tried,” 24% (69 students) voted “Liked,” and 52% (153 students) voted “Loved” on the taste test sticker poll. The chips were lightly coated with olive oil and seasoned with fresh rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper and ground cumin. 

Dec. 2017: Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad Taste Test Results - 61% loved it, 16% liked it and 23% tried it

Nov. 2017 - White Bean Ranch Dip

Blair Elementary School students were able to particpate in a veggie dip taste test through the Fuel Up to Play 60 program in November. The favorite recipe of the day was the PDF DocumentWhite Bean Ranch Dip . 

Prepping for the veggie dip taste tesst

Students near the poster showing the dip they liked best

Oct. 2017: Apple Carrot Slaw Taste Test

On October 19, students taste tested Apple Carrot Extravagan-slaw!

The results were clear: they LOVED IT!

Student voting on how she liked the apple carrot extraagan-slaw taste testapple carrot slaw taste test graph - 67% loved it, 17% liked it and 16% tried it

Here’s the recipe:

Carrot & Apple Extravagan-slaw
Prep time: 10 min
Serves: 4

  • 5 big carrots, peeled
  • 4 big tart apples (or 5 small), cored
  • 3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  1. Grate the carrots and apples using a grater or food processor grating attachment.
  2. Mix grated carrots and apples in a large bowl.  
  3. Stir in apple cider vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  4. Optional: top with a handful of chopped cilantro or parsley and ¼ cup toasted sunflower seeds
  5. Enjoy!

Sept. 2017: Cauliflower Taste Test

Roasted Cauliflower Taste Test

Cauliflower Taste Test Results: 10% tried it, 20% liked it and 70% loved it

Traverse Heights Elementary is hosting a FoodCorps Service Member this year!  Sarah will be joining the school community to connect students to food in school. She will be teaching hands-on lessons in some classrooms and the garden, and leading monthly taste tests in the cafeteria.

The first taste test of the year was on September 30th!  Students tried External Linkroasted cauliflower and then voted on whether they tried it, liked it, or loved it. Ten percent of the students tried it, 20% liked it and 70% or 86 of the 122 students  who participated LOVED it!

April 2017: Three Bean Salad Taste Test

The focus of the April FoodCorps taste test was Three Bean Salad. Over 65% of the 140 students who participated said they liked or loved the salad. PDF DocumentDownload the Three Bean Salad Recipe

Students participating in a Bean Salad Taste Test through FoodCorps

Feb. 2017: Taste Test Recipe Gets Used in TCAPS High Schools

Fish taco with apple ginger slaw.FoodCorps has long been hosting taste tests for TCAPS' elementary students. One of those taste test was such a hit that the recipe is now being used at TCAPS high schools. External LinkApple Ginger Slaw was used as a topping for fish tacos at TC West Senior High School. FoodCorps member Julia Page and TCAPS Food & Nutrition Services Director Tom Freitas stopped by the school to enjoy a few tacos as well. External LinkRead this FoodCorps blog post to learn more.  

Jan. 2017: Learning About Seeds, Where Food Comes From & Root Veggie Taste Tests

FoodCorps Updates for January:

Cindy Andersen-Schwartz and Jessica Owen's classes learned about the marvels of seeds. Students dissected seeds to look for its parts, explored different types of seeds, and made bean seed necklaces so they could see seeds in action. After the lesson, several students have shown FoodCorps Service Member Julia Paige the seed coat and cotyledon of their chickpeas off the salad bar in the lunchroom!

At January's Enrichment Friday, the 3rd and 4th graders learned where common foods come from and the process that foods go through to get to the plate. Many kids had no idea that chocolate came from beans or that there was sugar in ketchup! 

Students also participated in a taste test of roasted root veggies in the cafeteria, which included beets and parsnips from local farms. Many kids had never seen a beet or a parsnip before, and they enjoyed touching and smelling the whole root. Over two hundred kids participated in the taste test, and about 71% said they either liked or loved it. 

Apple Ginger Delight Taste Test

Apple Ginger Delight Samples for students to try

Traverse Heights students' October 2016 taste test was "Apple Ginger Delight" (a slaw/salad with carrots, apples, and kohlrabi). Of the students that tried it, ninety-eight kids LOVED the Apple Ginger Delight, 27 said they liked it, and 46 tried it. That means over 171 kids tried it and about 73% of them either liked or loved it! In November, the kids will have an opportunity to try out winter squash.

Italian Bean Pasta is a Hit with Students

In April, Interlochen Community School students taste tested an Italian Bean Pasta. Nearly 93% of the students loved or liked the pasta! Out of the 143 students who voted, 96 (67.13%) said they loved it, 36 (25.17% said they liked it, and only 11 (7.69%) tried it but said it wasn’t their favorite. View the PDF DocumentItalian Bean Pasta recipe. Traverse Heights Elementary School students tried PDF Documentpasta salad with navy beans. Nearly 85% of students voted that they liked or loved the bean pasta salad and  many were asking when they would be able to eat it again.  Next month is pickled radishes!

Roasted Beets & Pink Pasta


February’s harvest of the month is beets! Traverse Heights students taste tested roasted beets (from Farm-to-Freezer) seasoned with salt and pepper. Out of the 154 students who cast votes, over 80% said that they liked or loved the beets. Pink pasta (with beets from Second Spring Farm) was tested at Interlochen Community School with over 80% of the 127 students who participated declaring that they liked or loved the beets. Seems like beets are a hit with these TCAPS students! PDF DocumentView fun facts, recipes and crafts using beets.

Students Taste Test Kohlrabi Roasted, Steamed and Blanched


TH-Dungjens-kohlrabiDuring their January taste test, nearly 70% of Traverse Heights Elementary School students voted that they loved or liked roasted kohlrabi fries. Some of the feedback received from students was that it was “too spicy,” causing them to vote “tried it.” Thus, we would recommend cooking the kohlrabi fries with little to no pepper in the future. On February 15th, Interlochen students also had the opportunity to taste test the kohlrabi fries (sourced from Farm-to-Freezer) seasoned with salt. Sixty-five percent of the 125 students who participated said they liked or loved the kohlrabi.

In December, Mark Coe taught 24 third graders about the vegetable kohlrabi (pictured below). Students were able to taste test both blanched and sauteed kohlrabi. Seventy-five percent of the students loved the blanched kohlrabi, 16.7% liked it and an additional 8.3% tried it! For the sauteed kohlrabi, 83.3% of students loved it, 8.3% liked it and 8.3% tried it. 

The graph on the right shows a great response from Mrs. Littlefield-Dungjen’s third grade class with 91% voting that they loved or liked the kohlrabi both sautéed and blanched. 


Students Taste Test Winter Squash


In November, 99 students at Interlochen Community School tasted and voted on the “Lean Mean Squash and Bean Quesadillas.” With mixed reviews, 38 (38.4%) said they tried it, but it wasn’t their favorite; 22 (22.2%) liked it; and 39 (39.4%) loved it. Ninety-five students at Traverse Heights Elementary School tasted and voted on the “Delicata Smiles” as a part of their delicious thanksgiving lunch. Eighteen (19.0%) said they tried it, but it wasn’t their favorite; 25 (26.3%) said they liked it; and 52 (54.7%) loved it. See graphs above displaying these results.

Baked Apples Taste Testing


Eighty-two percent of Interlochen Community School students said they either loved or liked the baked apples they tried during the FoodCorps taste test.

Want your kids to eat more fruit? Try this PDF Documentbaked apple recipe that scored very well with Interlochen Community School students. Eighty-eight percent of the students said they either LOVED or LIKED the baked apples they tried during a recent FoodCorps taste test. In fact, they liked it so much, PDF Documentseveral students wrote a letter to TCAPS Food & Nutrition Services Director Tom Freitas asking that the baked apples be added to the lunch menu.

Making Connections

“I have to tell you about a boy who dragged his mother over to our market stand, proclaiming. “Oooooh, PARSNIPS!” He asked his mom if he could buy one, the biggest one, of course! His was pretty insistent. I made the comment that I thought that was really cool…great actually that he a.) Knew what a parsnip was and b.) Wanted his mom to buy him one! She told me that her son’s school gets all the credit. That there’s a program at school where the kids learn about healthy eating and vegetables.”  – Andrea Romeyn, Providence Organic Farm

From the mother of a 4th grade student at Old Mission Peninsula School who has gone through great lengths to change her daughter’s diet to improve her health. Recently, she decided to make kale chips at home, and was explaining what they were and how they were made. The response, “Yeah mom, I eat these at school all the time.” Mom, “about fell out of her chair.”