Throughout December, FaHN partnered with school districts across Broome and Tioga counties to hold taste tests featuring a fall kale salad made from local ingredients for students to sample during lunch in their school cafeterias.

The simple salad included apples, cranberries, and a dressing made of honey, lemon juice, canola oil, salt, and pepper. The kale was sourced locally from Main Street Farms out of Homer, NY and processed (chopped) by Crooked Carrot in Ithaca, NY. The apples were sourced through Russell Farms in Brackney, PA and the honey was from procured from both Babcock Farms in Nichols, NY and through Old Barn Hollow, a local food retailer that sources all of its products within a 100 mile radius. 

Students were given the opportunity to sample the fall kale salad and vote on their preferences. A student’s vote yes indicated that the student liked the salad and would eat it again, while a student’s vote no indicated they did not like the salad and would not necessarily try it again if it was featured for school lunches.

The idea behind the taste tests was to gauge student preferences and introduce local kale in a form simple enough to be replicated in the school lunch line and that students would also enjoy. Kale is a locally abundant, nutritious, and resilient product, with a longer shelf-life than most other leafy green vegetables. Introducing kale into schools would not only support local farmers, recycle money into the local food economy, and help move towards an environmentally sustainable regional food system in the Southern Tier, but also would introduce a nutritious super food to the diets of the student aged populations close to home.

The taste tests were an overwhelming success: 84% of the students who sampled the fall kale salad voted that they enjoyed the salad and would eat it again if it was featured in the lunch line, while only 16% of students indicated they did not like it. The numerical total was 642 votes yes to 123 votes no. Leftover salad was also featured in the school lunch line on the days following the taste tests and quickly ran out, often with students asking cafeteria staff if any more was available.

The Food and Health Network is looking forward to assisting school districts to work out the logistics of procuring kale from local farmers for future salads as well as holding taste tests with different local products in the upcoming months!