Days of Taste program exposes fourth grade students to farm life, healthy eating

Posted at 6:21 PM, Oct 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-31 07:35:30-04

The noise level is getting louder and louder in a classroom at Running Brook Elementary School in Columbia as the excitement of the more than 30 fourth graders grows.

They're excited to make a salad.

Its not what you would normally expect from a group of elementary students, but when there is a professional chef in the classroom guiding the way, it makes the task more fun.

"Its something that I feel strongly about, educating the next generation that food is delicious, it doesn't have to be processed and it can be healthy and colorful," said Thomas Zippelli, owner and head chef of the Turn House in Columbia.

Zippelli is volunteering with the group "Days of Taste," a free, three-day program for elementary schools. The mission is to teach kids about where their food comes from and how to decrease the amount of junk and processed food in their diet.

"I see it all the time at the restaurant. Kids will come in and order butter pasta, chicken fingers and French fries and that's the generic go-to," Zippelli said. "I feel like we could do better."

Doing better is what "Days of Taste" is all about. The first day of the program is when the students taste test different foods. The second day is a trip to a local farm, which is volunteer Kathy Hartley's favorite part.

"I love getting out to the farm and seeing light bulbs come on in the kids heads," she said, "When they realize this is where their food comes from, it doesn't just come from the grocery store but I can actually pick this up and eat it right here on the farm."

The third day is preparing meals with a professional chef. The kids at Running Brook are working with Zippelli to create a salad with baby kale, watermelon radishes, apples, greens and feta cheese, topped with a homemade vinaigrette.

"We're hoping to expose the kids to new tastes, maybe some new vegetables they haven't seen before," said Hartley.

The kids toss the salads and dole out portions for each team member. Some plates are cleaned, others still have a few linger pieces of kale and radishes left behind.

One kid exclaims with a huge smile, "I like salads!"

Mission accomplished.