By Sayrah Namaste and Angelina Lopez-Brody
How many people in your family will taste a turnip today? That was the question asked during the Terrific Turnip Tasting, a May event sponsored by AFSC New Mexico.
Following the success of the 2019 Great Carrot Crunch campaign, which saw participants from over 30 Head Start programs, AFSC looked forward to more fresh ideas that would introduce and engage students to both healthy eating and new produce. One idea was a spring Terrific Turnip Tasting, which would offer students the chance to crunch into sweet salad turnips, as well as provide them with an activity guide about local agriculture and good nutrition.
Exposing young children to fresh, healthy foods increases the likelihood that they will try them. AFSC makes the turnip tasting a fun challenge and offers small-scale organic growers another market and a way to get their produce into the hands of kids who might not otherwise have access to local and organic produce. It’s a win-win for kids and farmers.
The shutdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic challenged AFSC staff to rethink our approach in reaching kids where they were – at home! Rather than using the prior classroom-based approach, the Terrific Turnip Tasting expanded to engage the whole family. Working with the schools, AFSC used “grab n’ go” pick-ups to safely send students home with a bag of turnips for everyone in the family to try. When parents model trying new foods and healthy eating habits, kids see and mimic them. The bags also included a fun activity guide packed with a coloring sheet, word search, and healthy eating quiz.
The closure of schools created many extra logistics for AFSC staff, who were very grateful to the Albuquerque Friends Meeting. Friends volunteered to make the Terrific Turnip Tasting a success by assembling hundreds of packets at home; labeling bags for each family who would receive turnips; and then safely working from the porch of the Friends Meeting House in shifts so each Quaker family could pack the 2,500 turnips into 450 bags.
Everyone wore masks and gloves and the shifts were staggered to keep social distance. The children had fun volunteering with their parents, and it gave the families a chance to be part of a meaningful activity in person during a time when so much has had to be virtual. Some of the Quaker children attend the very schools participating in the Terrific Turnip Tasting, which made it more real for them as well.
And everyone was able to try a taste of turnips!