Home Grown Springfield (HGS) is dedicated to providing Springfield Public Schools (SPS) students with daily fresh and local meals and inviting students to be an active part of the menu development process.
In celebration of Dairy: Harvest of the Month in March, HGS hosted a smoothie taste test for the students at Springfield Central High School. Students sampled strawberry banana, blueberry spinach, and spiced apple pie flavors before voting for their favorite.
This isn’t unfamiliar – SPS students like those at Central High have been an active part of their school menus for the past few years, sending daily menu feedback and taste testing new menu items as part of HGS’s mission to increase student meal participation in Springfield.
What made this taste test unique was the collaboration among multiple community partners – New England Dairy, DESE, Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources, USDA Food and Nutrition Services, Massachusetts Farm to School, local dairy farmers Darryl and Lucinda Williams from Luther Belden Farm in Hatfield, MA, and Pat Patriot all came together with HGS to make this dairy celebration a success. The team was also able to raffle off a New England Patriots mini helmet signed by former Patriot Damien Harris to those who completed a survey.
For students, smoothies are a step in the right direction toward higher meal participation. For convenient, grab-and-go style meal options, students are asking for HGS to “keep them coming”. Donna Briggs, Operations Manager at HGS, said this is a great option for students who may not always go for a meal or just want something refreshing to get them through the rest of the day.
“We’re always trying to expand offered options at lunchtime for our high school students; in a city with so many students, there are many diet and flavor preferences. We trust that incorporating smoothies on this level will make more students choose to fuel their bodies with something delicious and nutritious during lunchtime.”
94% of students were excited by the potential smoothies have as an official meal offering and requested to see smoothies as a meal on their menu in the future. Because of direct student feedback, team members like Chef Andrew Hall have a better idea of what students are looking to see every day.
“Direct and consistent feedback helps us really know what students want on their school menus. With that feedback, we’re able to deliver real results to the students of Springfield that answer to their requests, from creativity all the way to presentation,” explained Hall.
Taste tests like these not only highlight new and special menu items but showcase students’ ability to play an active role in their school meal service program. Thanks to SPS students and community partners, HGS is committed to putting more student voice on the menu.