By Renee De Shay
As the lunch bell rang, a long line of students at Marietta Sixth Grade Academy formed outside the door of the cafeteria, ready to burst into the room toward the waiting tables. Today’s lunch included a special event: Green Day, put on by Marietta City Schools (MCS) Nutrition Program, Atlanta United, FoodCorps, Georgia Organics, Community Sprouts, and the Cobb County Farm Bureau. The event featured taste tests of a cheesy kale dip, Atlanta United soccer players, and a display of indoor container gardens and plant raffle by the Cobb County Farm Bureau.
Students visited the display tables sponsored by MCS Nutrition Program and the Cobb County Farm Bureau. They collected stickers, and pencils, and learned about different ways to grow plants in containers: recycled plastic containers, a hanging pot, and a mesh bag. They also entered a raffle to win a plant, and voted “I liked it!” or “No thanks!” for the cheesy kale dip on a whiteboard.
Atlanta United players Kevin Kratz, Romario Williams, and Alec Kann passed out samples of the kale dip and chips while mingling with the students and signing autographs. Events like these are common for the players. For Romario Williams, his favorite part is putting smiles on the kids’ faces.
Exclamations of “Cheesy-what dip??” and “He signed my shirt!” sounded throughout the cafeteria. Students excitedly showed friends their autographed shirts – one creative student even had an autographed plastic spoon! A clear majority liked the cheesy kale dip, and even some students who did not normally like kale admitted, “It’s good.”
“I was scared to eat it at first,” said Nasir, age 12, “But it was a little spicy and crispy around the edges, which I liked…I liked the dip better than the chip!” he said.
“Could I have more? It’s really good!” said Hector, age 12. Hector thought the program was a good idea to educate students about vegetables. He especially liked seeing the plants growing in the recycled containers. Hannah, age 11, also liked the Farm Bureau table. “I liked that one because they showed us some plants,” she said. Donisha Harrison, Culinary Manager for the Marietta City Schools district, has made the cheesy kale dip, which she modified from a collard dip recipe from Southern Living, for several taste test events. “For the most part, it’s very popular,” she said.
Though the students were only supposed to get one sample, many asked for seconds, which the Atlanta United players generously provided. Though slightly concerned that they would run out of samples before the end of lunch period, Donisha appreciated the students’ enthusiasm. “If they’re asking for vegetables, fine with me!” she said.
At the end of the lunch period, dedicated staff and volunteers breathed a sigh of relief as the cafeteria emptied. All in all, they had served about 500 samples of kale dip during three shifts of students coming in for lunch.
This event is the third collaboration between Georgia Organics and Atlanta United. Events like these are designed to introduce kids to eating vegetables and agriculture while engaging them with local sports heroes.
Melissa Hames from the Cobb County Farm Bureau explained that these events show kids where their food comes from and how they can get involved in it. “We want to get the younger generation into agriculture,” she said.