Veggie Variety: Lessons from the Green Bean Rebels

August 13, 2007

by Jean Saunders, HSC School Wellness Director

Sometimes, all you have to do is ask!

At least, that’s what the second graders at William V. Wright school in Las Vegas learned about speaking up for a tasty variety of food.

An AP report, “Vegas Children Rebel… Against Green Beans,” describes the “poignantly polite” letter-writing campaign that children used to advocate for some new vegetable options in their school cafeteria.

MSNBC reports that the children’s letters included praise and offered ideas for replacing the green beans:

“A little boy said, ‘Anything, anything, I’ll even eat broccoli,'” said Connie Duits, the lunch lady. “So that one touched my heart.”

The children were careful to offer praise as they expressed their concerns.

“Dear Mrs. Duits, The food is so yummy and yummy. But there are one proplem. It is the green beans,” wrote Zhong Lei.

“We love the rest but we hate the green beans,” wrote Viviann Palacios.

In response to the students’ letters, the school district sent staff to conduct a taste-test of financially viable veggie options (including corn, carrots, peas, and tomatoes) and will adjust the menu based on the children’s feedback.

Food service directors around the country understand the importance of asking students for their opinions about new offerings in the cafeteria. They know that students are more likely to accept changes in the menu if their opinions are solicited in taste tests.

More and more school districts are including a greater number of healthy options in their cafeterias.

Last week, the School Nutrition Association released a comprehensive report about school food service, “School Nutrition Operations Report: The State of School Nutrition 2007.”

The report found that a majority of schools offer fat-free or low-fat milk (97 percent), fresh fruits and vegetables (96 percent), salad bars or pre-packaged salads (88 percent), yogurt and yogurt drinks (81 percent), from-scratch baked items (63 percent) and vegetarian meals (52 percent). The availability of locally grown fruits and vegetables has increased to 32 percent of schools.

If a few second graders in Las Vegas can bring about positive change in their local school, just imagine what could happen if more students around the country got involved in requesting healthier, tastier food options in their schools!