Molly Capito, a 2013 Broadalbin-Perth graduate, returned to her alma mater this year to complete a service learning project with students at The Learning Community. Capito, who is studying for a master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics at SUNY Oneonta, partnered with six classes to give students opportunities to learn about and taste a variety of vegetables and legumes.
Through her project, which she called “Chews” Healthy, Capito assessed the participating students’ knowledge and perceptions of vegetables and legumes. After the students tasted the vegetables and legumes, Capito re-assessed the students to measure the changes in knowledge and perceptions.
“This is a great opportunity to teach kids about veggies,” said first-grade teacher Jill Becker as her students tasted the offerings on their plates. “They might find that they like something they’ve never had before because their parents don’t make it. For example, I’m allergic to spinach, so my kids have never had spinach. They might like it, but because I’m the one who cooks, they’ve never had spinach.”
Many of the students who participated in the taste test were pleasantly surprised by the flavors of the foods they tasted. First-grader Jenika Tyrrell, for example, said she liked everything except the Brussels sprouts, and she really loved the carrots. And classmate Steacy Lear said she was looking forward to trying lima beans during an upcoming taste test.
“It’s important for kids to be exposed to vegetables when they’re young so they’re more likely to eat them when they’re older,” said food service director Jim Garner, who helped Capito by providing both raw and cooked food for the students to sample. “Vegetables are healthiest in their raw form, so it’s good for the kids to get used to the flavor of raw vegetables, without sauces or spices that mask the flavor of the vegetables.”
Capito also received support from the high school’s Nutrition Club, whose members helped prepare foods for the students’ taste tests.
“I think this project is important because it helps expose the kids to different foods, and maybe they’ll get their parents to buy those foods for them,” Capito said. “Here at the school, maybe more kids will try the veggies that are offered at lunchtime, which will result in less food waste.”
As much of an impact as the project had on the participating students, the project also affected Capito. She said that although she originally thought about using her nutrition degree in a hospital setting, after conducting the project at TLC, she began thinking about being a food service director at a school where she could also teach nutrition classes.