Spring 2022 Trainings and Taste Tests
The Portland Public Schools Food Service department, in partnership with local nonprofits and consultants, is working to introduce culturally important menu items to the school lunch options served at the district’s high schools. During the spring of 2022, students at Deering, Casco Bay, and Portland high schools taste tested three menu items adapted from traditional Central African cuisine: smashed kidney beans, spiced beef, and cabbage slaw; chicken and chickpeas in vegetable sauce over yellow rice; North African chicken and kale stew over rice, with a vegetarian alternative available. Students gave a resounding "I love it" for all three taste tests. All three menu items will be included in the high school lunch menu beginning in the fall of 2022.
This project is funded by Full Plates Full Potential, and led by Portland Public Schools Food Service and local food justice nonprofit Cultivating Community. It is being implemented by several community partners that include FoodCorps, Cumberland County Food Security Council (CCFSC), Good Shepherd Food Bank, and the University of Southern Maine (USM). This initiative is a collaboration of the Food Fuels Learning Network, and is made possible due to the recipe development work done by Khadija Ahmed and Chef Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro with Westbrook Public Schools’ Nutrition Director Mary Emerson. To learn more about the initiative, read the full project report below.
During the first month of trainings and taste tests, we partnered with Professor Jamie Picardy's "Food, Power, and Social Justice" class at University of Southern Maine to conduct more in depth research. Professor Picardy's students attended taste tests at all three Portland high schools, recorded data during a one-hour focus group with high school participants, and analyzed all quantitative and qualitative data from these events. To learn more about the project and our work with USM, read their full report below.
Elementary School Taste Tests
Beginning in the Fall of 2022, PPS Food Services, FoodCorps, and Food Fuels Learning conducted taste tests of the Chicken and Kale Stew at all 8 mainland elementary schools to expose younger students to this meal and project. Students voted with stickers for: “I loved it,” “It was Okay,” or “Not for Me.” Over half the students loved it! Elementary school students were able to try the Chicken and Kale Stew on their school lunch menu again during the winter of 2022.
Questions or comments?
If you are interested in implementing a similar project in your school district, contact Khadija Ahmed at KAhmed@gsfb.org or 517-984-3098. For any questions on the project, contact Zoe Grodsky at email@example.com.