What is in this article?:
- Hy-Vee Kidsâ€™ Garden Grows, Spurs New Program
- Cooking With Kids
“The children’s garden is a good example of a valuable program that started at grass roots level and has spread out to other stores."
— Ruth Comer, assistant vice president, media relations, Hy-Vee
Cooking With Kids
Since Haugen wanted children to taste different vegetables, cooking or assembling salads were part of the day’s agenda.
“This year, we had them cooking and pureeing cauliflower, and mixing it with macaroni and cheese, to make it healthier. We didn’t try to trick them. It was all transparent. They cooked and pureed the cauliflower, did the mixing, and then tasted it,” Haugen said. The result: they all like it.
This year, with almost twice as many kids involved, scheduling became a little more of an issue. To make things manageable, Haugen keeps the number of kids actually doing hands-on gardening down to 12 to 15 at a time. The garden plot at this store is just 40 by 60 feet.
She gets help in supervising the kids from store director Tom Hepler, who helped her set up the garden plot that lies alongside the store.
“When I saw him building a wall [for the raised bed garden], I knew that this was going to be a permanent project,” Haugen told SN.
This year, with the local YMCA and The Hormel Institute, a cancer research center (that has no connection to the Hormel manufacturing facility here), as new sponsors, Haugen has received help from both organizations in the form of volunteers to help teach the kids.
“We had Hormel Institute speakers talking to the children about the cancer-fighting properties of some vegetables,” Haugen said, “and we — through a distributor — were given some ‘Burpee Boost’ seeds that have been developed as cancer-fighters.” Haugen told SN that this year, Hy-Vee has printed pamphlets and information sheets for the kids to take home, hopefully educating parents, too, about fresh vegetables’ qualities.
At harvest time this year, Haugen took a survey of the children-gardeners to determine what they liked best about her multi-pronged program.
“The responses,” Haugen said, “were almost equally divided by thirds. One third liked the [hands-on] gardening best, another third, cooking, and another third liked doing it all.”
What was equally encouraging was what she heard from parents, Haugen told SN.
“We did an evaluation questionnaire online for parents.”
When asked if they noticed any difference in kids on the days they went to the garden, 90% said the kids talked about what they did, 61% said their kids were more excited about working on recipes with them at home, and 52% said they noticed positive changes in their kids’ attitudes toward fruits and vegetables. A full 48% said they were offering more fruits and vegetables at home, 44% had their kids cooking with them, and an impressive 35% said they had started growing vegetables and fruits at home.
“We were very happy with the parents’ comments,” Haugens said.
After harvest this year, she initiated a contest called Sprouts Cropped, a take-off on the Food Network’s show titled Chopped.
Two teams where chosen and given the task of creating a dish utilizing what they’d harvested.
“They were allowed to buy some things from the Hy-Vee stores, but not vegetables,” Haugen said. “They could buy tortillas for wraps or other ingredients, for example.”
Judges were store director Tom Keppler, a local morning talk show host, and a Hormel Institute research scientist.
The winning dish was called a Garden Wheel. It was a wrap with a mixture of turkey and cheese and a mixture of vegetables from the Sprouts garden that had been marinated in raspberry vinegar.
Hy-Vee’s history of giving its stores autonomy has always encouraged creativity at store level, Ruth Comer pointed out.
“It’s the cornerstone of our company, a key to our success.”
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