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, 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

January 2020 - Magenta Root Slaw Taste Test

Students try magenta root slaw samples

January's taste test run by MSU Extension Grand Traverse's FoodCorps service member featured parsnips (and beets) in a Magenta Root Slaw. Students loved how the Lakeview Hill Farm beets colored the rest of the vegetables to make a pink salad, and many of those who were brave tasters decided they loved it! 21 students tried it, 12 liked it, and 44 loved it! 


Lemon Roasted Carrots Taste Test

Lemon Roasted Carrot Samples and Taste Test Poster

December's taste test at Traverse Heights Elementary School highlighted the ever popular carrot. These roasted carrots mixed the sweetness of carrot with the tanginess of lemon for a new take on cooked carrots. Though some students said they preferred plain uncooked carrots, it was still a hit for many. 47 of the students tried it, 17 liked it, and 45 loved it!

November Taste Test: Cider-Glazed Squash

cider-glazed squash taste test poster, recipe and samples

At Traverse Heights Elementary this month, students celebrated the Harvest of the Month by tasting Cider-Glazed Squash. This slightly sweet squash dish was a great way to introduce this harvest season vegetable. Many students loved it served this way, and one student even exclaimed "this would be great for Thanksgiving! 

29 students tried it, 21 liked it, and 52 loved it! If you want to try this Thanksgiving friendly dish, check out the recipe below.

Ingredients (8 servings)

  • 2 3/4 cup apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 2 pounds butternut squash, cut into cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons oil


  • In a pot, bring the apple cider, vinegar, and brown sugar to a boil.
  • Put burner on low and simmer the liquid until it thickens to the consistency of maple syrup.
  • Peel the squash and cut into 3/4 inch cubes. Mix the squash with salt, pepper and vegetable oil.
  • Put squash into a pan and roast in the oven at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. 
  • Mix the syrup with the roasted squash, and return to the oven for five more minutes.

PDF DocumentDownload cider glazed squash recipe

Cucumber Apple Salad Receipt and Student Taste Testing the Recipe

Cucumber Apple Salad Recipe First Taste Test of the School Year

At Traverse Heights Elementary School, students celebrated National Farm to School Month with their first taste test of the year. The cucumber apple salad, prepared by MSU Extension FoodCorps service member Erin and TCAPS' dietetic intern Elizabeth was a huge success. 17 tried it, 25 liked it, and 71 loved it!

This taste test was even more special because it featured garden herbs--dill and garlic chives. 

PDF DocumentCucumber Apple Salad Recipe

Traverse Heights Greenhouse Project

In the spring 2019, the Michigan State University Extension Grand Traverse County FoodCorps service member Sarah Perez-Sanz taught Traverse Heights Elementary School students how to prepare soil for vegetables plants in the school greenhouse. Sarah coordinated members from the school community to tend to the plants throughout the summer months. Kudos to FoodCorps service member Sarah Perez-Sanz and the Traverse Heights community for bringing this outdoor learning opportunity to life!

Traverse Heights greenhouse entry  Plants inside the Traverse Heights greenhouse 

Taste Tests from Past School Years

radishes growing in the garden, fresh cabbage, rad radish slaw poster

Rad Radish Slaw Taste Test

Students at Traverse Heights Elementary School think radishes are pretty RAD! This month during the harvest of the month taste test, students tasted a Rad Radish Slaw, featuring local carrots and cabbage from Second Spring Farm. 

This taste test, run by Grand Traverse County MSU Extension's FoodCorps Service member had good reviews from many students: 16 Tried it, 26 Liked it, and 45 LOVED IT! 

This taste test was exciting for many students because they have helped plant and take care of radishes in their school garden this spring. Unfortunately, they were not quite ready for the taste test, but they will be on the salad bar soon.

Farm to Freezer Fruit and Perfect Partfait Samples

This month, students at Traverse Heights Elementary tasted Perfect Parfaits at their harvest of the month FoodCorps taste test. This perfect dish featured Michigan Farm to Freezer blueberries and cherries!

It was a hugely popular dish, one student declared that "it was better than the cookie!" Another came back to say that she had just tried a cherry for the first time--and she liked it!

Of the students that gave it a try, 4% tried it, 10% liked it, and 86% loved it! 

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Hash

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Hash Samples and graph

Traverse Heights students had the opportunity to try Black Bean and Sweet Potato Hash to highlight beans as the harvest of the month. One kindergartner told FoodCorps service member Erin that this taste test was "The best, the actual best, the very best you've ever made!" Spicing up the black beans and sweet potatoes with cilantro, cumin, and lemon juice made the dish taste a bit like tacos or chili-- a familiar flavor to many students. Of the students that gave this dish a try, 23% Tried it, 14% Liked it, and 63% Loved it!  Want to give it a try? Find the recipe below:


  • ½ pound sweet potato (one medium)
  • 1 tsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¼  tsp salt
  • One sprig fresh cilantro (optional)
  • 1 tsp rice wine or white wine vinegar
  • ¼ tsp honey
  • 1 tsp olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup canned black beans, rinsed


  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  • Wash and cut sweet potatoes into ¼ inch cubes.
  • Toss sweet potatoes, 1 tsp oil, ⅛ tsp cumin, and ⅛ tsp salt in a large bowl. Spread out on a sheet pan. Cook in oven until sweet potatoes can easily be poked by a fork, about 10-15 minutes.
  • Remove stem from cilantro (if using), and chop leaves fine. In a small bowl, mix lime/lemon juice, vinegar, honey, ⅛ tsp cumin, ⅛ tsp salt and cilantro. Add remaining oil.
  • Toss sweet potatoes, black beans and dressing together.

My Heart BEETS for you Hummus - A Valentines Day Hit

My Heart BEETS for you Hummus Samples

This month, Traverse Heights Elementary School students got to try "My Heart BEETS For You Hummus" during their Harvest of the Month FoodCorps taste test. This bright pink hummus was perfect for Valentines Day! 

Making a healthy snack is a great way to celebrate a holiday. Here is the recipe if you would like to give this one a try!"


  • 1 small beet
  • 1 (15 oz) can of chickpeas
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp of tahini
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c olive oil


  • Roast beet in oven-- cover in tinfoil, and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.
  • Peel the skin off of the beet.
  • Blend beet in food processor to chop finely.
  • Add all other ingredients to food processor.
  • Add up to ¼ cup of water to make the hummus smooth.
  • Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Of the students who tried the beet hummus, 20.7% tried it, 22.7% said they like it and 56.7% loved it.

"Mix It Up Salad" at Traverse Heights

Parsnips, Beet and Carrot taste test cups and results

This month, Traverse Heights Elementary School students got to try a parsnip, beet, and carrot salad during their Harvest of the Month FoodCorps taste test. With Michigan parsnips, 9 Bean Rows beets, and Michigan Farm to Freezer carrots, it was a celebration of local root crops!

MSU Extension's FoodCorps service member Erin asked students what to name this recipe. Her favorite? A "mix it up salad."

Almost 100 students gave this recipe a try, and 55 of them loved it (55%), 22 of them liked it (22%), and 20 tried it (20%).

Parsnip, Beet & Carrot Salad Recipe

Serves 4


  • 1 medium parsnip
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 small beet
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons orange juice
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil


  • Wash and grate all vegetables.
  • In a medium bowl, mix ginger, honey and orange juice (and lemon juice if using) together.
  • Add vegetables into the bowl and mix well.
  • Let everything sit for one hour before serving (to let the dressing soak in).

Carrot Fries Taste Test at Traverse Heights

Carrot Fries - Local Carrots from 9 Bean Rows Farm - Results graphicThis month's taste test run by MSU Extension's FoodCorps Service Member was one of the most popular this year at Traverse Heights Elementary School. Students had the opportunity to try Carrot Fries that highlighted local carrots from 9 Bean Rows Farm.

Student participation was very high this month, 135 students voted (66% of the school population), and of those, 64% of them Loved it, 16% Liked it, and 20% Tried it. Some loved it so much they came back for seconds... and thirds! 

If you want to give this popular side dish a try, take a peek at this simple recipe! You can always use whatever spices you like to add your own twist to the fries.

Carrot Fries Recipe

Serves 8 (1/2 serving)


  • 1 1/2 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground oregano
  • Small pinch black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chopped raw garlic


  • Heat oven to 400 F degrees.
  • Toss carrots with all of the other ingredients in a large bowl.
  • Pour seasoned carrots on a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Stir the carrot fries twice while cooking.
  • Cook for about 20 minutes, until carrots are tender, but not mushy.

Eastern Elementary Students Try a Spin on a Classic

Results of Eastern Elementary's Butternut Squash mac and cheese taste test - 55 tried it, 55 liked it, 41 loved it

Students at Eastern Elementary School were excited to participate in their first-ever taste test! After tasting “Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese,” the students placed a sticker on the board, indicating if they tried it, liked it, or loved it. Of the 151 students that participated, 55 tried it, 55 liked it, and 41 loved it! While this dish received some mixed reviews, most of the students were surprised with how much they enjoyed this nutritious treat. This cheese-less ‘mac & cheese’ is made only from butternut squash, onion, garlic, chicken stock, vegetable oil, and pasta! The components are cooked, blended, and combined with pasta to create the classic macaroni and cheese look!

Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese (Squash-tastic Pasta)


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 pounds of butternut squash cut into small cubes (about 3 cups)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 12 ounces whole grain pasta

Serves 4-6


  1. Warm the oil in a large pot, with the stove set to medium.
  2. Add the cubed squash, onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) to the pot. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, and bring everything to a boil.
  4. Cook for 15-20 minutes.
  5. While the squash is cooking, cook the pasta in a big pot according to the package directions.
  6. Once the squash is done cooking, remove it from the heat, and let it cool for ten minutes.
  7. Use a blender or food processor to blend the squash until smooth. Then sprinkle salt and pepper to your preference.
  8. Pour the squash sauce over the pasta and mix together.

Squash-tastic Pasta A Hit With Traverse Heights Students

Traverse Heights squash-tastic pasta taste test 26 tried it, 17 liked it and 65 loved it

Students at Traverse Heights Elementary School were treated to a special taste test this November. The Squash-tastic Pasta that they sampled featured squash grown at the Traverse Heights Elementary school garden. Of the 108 students that gave it a try, 26 (24%) Tried it, 17 (15%) Liked it, and 65 (60%) LOVED IT. Many wanted to have seconds, or requested the PDF Documentsquash-tastic recipe

Long Lake Students Get a Taste of Superb Swapples

Long Lake students hold up superb swapples voting poster

October is farm to table month and the kids at Long Lake Elementary School are taste testing local apples and honey! Of the 244 kids that took the sample, 56 kids tried it, 44 liked it, and 144 loved it! Great feedback was given by the students about the cinnamon smell and yummy taste of the swapples. Swapples are diced sweet potatoes and local Michigan apples, with local Michigan honey, orange juice, cinnamon, canola oil and salt.

Students Pleasantly Surprised by the Sweet Taste of Swapples

sweet potatoes and apples make up the swapple taste test

Cherry Knoll students lined up to give this month's taste test of "Swapples" a try. After tasting, students placed stickers on a voting poster to signify their opinions on the recipe. Overall, the dish was a huge success with even a few students who thought they would hate it being pleasantly surprised by enjoying it. Of the 295 students that participated 44 (15%) Tried it, 62 (21%) Liked it, and 189 (64%) Loved it

Superb Swapples: Great Name, Great Taste

Students taste test superb swapples

October's taste test of "Superb Swapples" was a winner among Traverse Heights students. Of the 115 students who voted, 64 loved it, 26 liked it and 25 tried it. Swapples is a mix of sweet potatoes and apples, spiced with honey, cinnamon, salt, orange juice and oil, then baked to perfection. 

Traverse-Heights-Cauliflower-Taste-Test-14% tried it, 14% liked it, 66% loved it

Traverse Heights Elementary School Students Give Creamy Cauliflower Clouds a Taste

The first taste test of the year at Traverse Heights was a big hit! Students tried Creamy Cauliflower Clouds (steamed cauliflower with garlic powder and a bit of salt and pepper). 
Students then got the opportunity to vote on if they "tried it", "liked it", or "loved it".  Fourteen percent of the students "tried it", 14% "liked it", and 68% "loved it". 

Roasted Asparagus Taste Test Graph - 25 tried it, 12 liked it, 78 loved itRoasted Asparagus Taste Test

On June 7, 2018, 115 students at Traverse Heights Elementary School participated in a roasted asparagus taste test with the majority of the students loving the recipe. Results show 22% tried it, 10% liked it, and 68% loved it.

Radish Taste Tests

Long Lake students taste test radishes

Over 130 Long Lake Elementary School students gave pickled radishes a try during their May taste testing with 31 liking them and 89 loving the radishes.  External LinkView the recipe and fun facts about radishes. For this taste test recipe, maple syrup was used in place of sugar because it is a more natural sweetener and could be purchased locally. For each cup of sugar called for in the recipe, substitute 3/4 cup maple syrup. Apple cider vinegar was also used instead of white vinegar because it could also be purchased locally. 

Traverse Heights Pickled Radishes Tried it, Liked it, Loved it GraphTraverse Heights students had the opportunity to try pickled radishes. Fifty-three percent either liked them or loved them.








Willow Hill Radish Taste Test PosterWillow Hill Elementary School students had their pickled radish taste test on June 1, 208. Of the 295 students who participated, 136 tried it, 72 liked it and 87 students loved it.

Cherry Knoll families taste testing healthy snacksTasting Healthy Snack Options

Cherry Knoll families, students and staff who participated in the school's annual Family Night were able to sample healthy snack options.






Black Bean and Corn Party Salad

students trying black bean and corn party salad

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. 

Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze Taste Test

roasted beets taste test graphStudents really enjoyed the roasted beets with balsamic glaze. Seventy-four percent of those who tried it, liked it or loved it. PDF DocumentRoasted Beets Recipe

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

Blair Elementary School students were able to participate 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

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!

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!

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

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. FoodCorps member Julia Page and TCAPS Food & Nutrition Services Director Tom Freitas stopped by the school to enjoy a few "slawsome" tacos as well. 

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 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.

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!


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.


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. 



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.


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.

“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 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.”