Spring Salad Kit Update!
Thursday, July 2, 2020
by Leslie Lichtenberg, TasteWise Kids Volunteer
Everything has changed since “coronavirus” has sadly become an all-too familiar household word. But even in these most challenging times, the mission at TasteWise Kids — to educate and excite children about fresh, healthy eating — has remained constant. With schools closed and the Days of Taste spring programming consequently cancelled, the dedicated TWK team, working in partnership with schools, local government programs, and farms has managed to pull off the unthinkable — delivering fresh, healthy food to families in the communities we serve.
It all began with “plan B,” as Guilford Elementary School principal Justin FitzGerald explains it. When it became apparent that Days of Taste, TWK’s signature program that provides hands-on learning about healthy eating for fourth graders, would not take place in schools, Days of Taste Director Riva Kahn reached out to Justin with a plan to deliver salad kits directly to the students by organizing a one-day drive-up distribution event at the school. Working closely with Mary Schiller, Manager of Community Partnerships with the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS), Riva was certain the idea had legs. Justin, however, admits he was a little less confident, given the complications of the pandemic.
“I honestly did not think in a million years a plan like this would get approved,” he says. “But Riva and Mary explored every option to make it happen.”
Riva confirms that there were hurdles. “It took a lot of coordination and effort…there were many hoops to go through, as the school systems were very careful about giving out anything due to the pandemic.”
“Ensuring everyone’s safety while also making this a useful experience was a top priority,” Justin adds.
Once HCPSS green-lighted the plan, the Days of Taste team, working with Guilford Elementary fourth grade teachers, jumped into action, reaching out to families about the upcoming salad kit distribution in the school parking lot. The Roving Radish, a longtime partner of Days of Taste, lent a hand with assembling the kits — which contained locally grown mixed greens, red peppers, ingredients for a homemade dressing and recipe cards — and assisting with the distribution.
On June 2, the Guilford Elementary bus circle was transformed into a salad kit pick-up site. More than 200 families showed up — eager for a chance to leave the house and especially to reunite with teachers and friends from school, even if only from a distance. The students and their families were thrilled, many taking to social media to express their gratitude and delight. Justin, who admits to reaching for the junk food perhaps too often, added his appreciation.
“The food provided by Days of Taste was delicious! It enlightened and inspired me to do a better job with the food I eat. When unhealthy food is often all that is available, as is the case for many families in especially challenging times, something as simple as a delicious, healthy salad can make all the difference,” he added.
The success of the Guilford distribution project sparked additional initiatives at other Days of Taste partner schools. In mid-June, Third Way Farm distributed 100 bags of farm-fresh organic produce to Hall’s Cross Roads Elementary School in Harford County, and a week later the Roving Radish helped to facilitate the distribution of 120 salad kits to Talbott Springs Elementary School in Howard County. Another distribution is being planned for Baltimore City later this summer.
Previously committed funding for the Days of Taste program, as well as an additional $800 in individual donations has helped to make these programs possible. But were it not for the astounding support and true team effort among all of the Days of Taste stakeholders — schools, principals, school systems, government programs, farmers, chefs, teachers and volunteers — this story might never have been told.
In an uncertain time in which many questions remain, the important lesson learned here is that with willpower and determination to impact lives for the better, anything is possible.
“Every curveball imaginable has been thrown at us, and we’re still okay,” says FitzGerald. “No matter what, we will find a way to persevere.”