Students from Millbrae collect strawberries on the HEAL Project’s school farm in El Granada.
Cherry tomatoes and brussels sprouts might not exactly sound appealing to your average 5-year-old, but one San Mateo County organization wants to change children’s attitudes toward fruit and vegetables by having children grow and taste their own food.
The HEAL Project, a nonprofit run out of Half Moon Bay, already operates a school farm that allows students to have a hand in growing and preparing food, but it’s also partnering with the Coastside Children’s Program summer camp this year to get campers tasting fresh produce. This is part of the project’s Engaged Active Agricultural Tasters, or EAAT, program.
“We’re excited to collaborate with The HEAL Project on the EAAT program,” Agnes Chan, executive director of Coastside Children’s Programs, said in a prepared statement. “It’s an amazing opportunity to counter the incessant marketing of sugary drinks, fatty snacks and processed foods to children and parents by offering healthful and tasty choices.”
At the end of the camp day, campers participate in a 30-minute tasting. The group provides a California specialty crop tasting of the week. This week, students will get to try blackberries. EAAT offers the campers raw vegetables or fruit and also prepares something made from that. Last week, students tried tomatoes, along with bruschetta.
“The kids really loved it,” HEAL Executive Director Sher Quaday. “They were a little bit reluctant to try it at first, but many really liked it.”
The EAAT program also serves up locally grown fruit and vegetables at Hatch and Farallone View elementary schools and to students throughout San Mateo County who visit the 5-year-old HEAL farm. Each EAAT program includes nutrition and agriculture education and a tasting where kids can vote whether they liked what they tasted and whether they’d want to eat it again.
“We know that if kids are able to taste and eat fresh fruits and vegetables, they’re more likely to give a fruit or vegetable a try,” Quaday said.
HEAL also says that children who have a hand in growing and preparing food are more likely to enjoy that food, eat it again and influence buying choices at home.
EAAT is funded through a three-year $256,308 grant from the California Department of Agriculture California Specialty Crop Block Grant program. Tastings have been in place for five years. Free field trips are offered to schools with 50 percent or more of students who receive free or reduced-priced lunches.
“I would like to get more schools involved from over the hill,” Quaday said.
The HEAL Project has more new programming to look forward to as well. The Kaiser Family Foundation granted HEAL $20,000 to host education programs at Spruce, Martin and Los Ceritos schools in South San Francisco. HEAL also offers its own summer camp program at its farm and each week provides a specific theme, such as “Al Fresco Culinary Academy” and “Flowers and Fairies,” in an experimental outdoor learning environment. Campers explore plant and animal life, create art, explore science and work with food.
Weekly tastings at the Coastside Children’s Programs camp run through Aug. 14.
For more information on HEAL, go to hehealproject.nationbuilder.com. To find about the Coastside Children’s Programs visit coastsidechildren.org.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105