To help close the meal gap in Central Florida, Second Harvest Food Bank provides after-school and summer meals for disadvantaged kids. The meals served range from pizza and taco salad to a whole grain chicken and waffle. But before any meal makes it to the table, it is kid-tested.
First, each menu item is scrutinized to ensure it meets the USDA recommended amounts of protein, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Then, items are presented in a taste test with kids who provide feedback to the chefs. Finally, the menu items are put in a rotation and prepared in Second Harvest’s production kitchen.
When meals are delivered out in the community, each child receives a main dish and a vegetable side, along with fruit and choice of milk. At a recent lunch, Zoe and McKenzie, two first-graders, received whole grain chicken and cheese burritos with black bean and corn salad, plus applesauce and milk.
When I asked if they liked their lunch, McKenzie said, “I don’t like the beans; they’re burnt.”
Channeling my inner parent I asked if she had tried them before dismissing the entire salad.
“No, black food is burnt. It doesn’t taste good,” McKenzie replied. I had to agree that no one likes burnt food.
“Beans should be brown,” Zoe added.
This is when I realized they must be thinking of pinto beans, refried beans or baked beans.
“Did you know beans come in all different colors?” I asked.
“Like what?” they asked.
“Well, they can be brown, or black – like these. Black beans are really good for you,” I explained. “Do you want to give them a try?”
The girls took a bite. McKenzie thought they were pretty good. Zoe wasn’t sure, but she put some on her burrito and ate them all together.
“What other colors can beans be? Are there purple beans?” McKenzie asked.
I told her that beans also came in red and white. Then, I remembered a recipe I made once from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters cookbook called Black Beans Cooked Purple. “And, if you cook black beans, like the ones in your lunch, with red cabbage, you can change them to be purple!”
This made all three of us giggle.
You can support Second Harvests’s Summer Hope for Kids campaign to help provide fresh, healthy meals for kids, and allow them to try – and like – new foods too.