#4: Food and Farewell
This is it – the last stretch! As promised, a detailed account of the taste test will be provided (with mouthwatering photos). But first, let’s take a quick look at a summary of the entirety of our project.
LFS 350 Group 19, in collaboration with Fresh Roots and David Thompson Secondary School’s Chef Lee Green, worked together to find ways to increase seasonal, local food prepared, sold and bought by students in David Thompson Secondary School’s cafeteria. Our project stemmed from the previous LFS 350 group localEd’s project initiative to integrate local food into schools in the Vancouver district; in tandem with the visibly low number of students buying food from the cafeteria at David Thompson Secondary School, and the concern of the nutritional content of the meals accessed by students elsewhere.
Our projects objectives were to create and administer a survey for the culinary class to find out students’ food preferences; obtain information about their perception towards the cafeteria. In addition, use one of the recipes created by the previous LFS 350 group, to administer a taste test with the culinary class and survey the students afterwards.
Inquiry questions posed by our group were:
- If the students buy food from the cafeteria, why or why not?
- Will the recipe taste test be made feasibly and enjoyed by the students so it can be put on the cafeteria menu?
- What are potential ways to increase student use and purchasing at the school cafeteria?
Our group collected qualitative data from the students through two surveys to obtain understanding of their opinions on the cafeteria environment, food, the taste test and improvements that could be made to each; as well as if they buy food from the cafeteria, why or why not? Our results showed that over 50% of students brought lunch from home and the remainder didn’t like anything on the menu. If they bought food from the cafeteria it was done infrequently throughout the year. Furthermore, the butternut squash pasta bake taste test received high ratings on ease of preparation and overall likeness but low ratings on purchasing or making it again.
From our findings we recommend that the students preference be taken into consideration when planning the cafeteria menu, which can be done through taste tests and surveys, to help increase seasonal, local food being prepared, sold and bought in the cafeteria. Moreover, our research was limited to a small culinary class; we suggest that further research with a greater sample size, such as all the students from David Thompson Secondary School, be conducted to obtain a better idea of the student populations’ overall food preference. In addition to greater utilization of the schoolyard market garden, teaching kitchen and curriculum involving local food to generate informed students that are able to choose and advocate for healthier, local foods.
The Taste Test
We hope you’re hungry – the students at David Thompson served up an absolute treat for us.
On March 7th, we conducted the surveys and taste-test with the culinary arts students at David Thompson Secondary. This was a pivotal point in our project since these tests were important for us to make sense of our objectives. We went to the school eager to know more about the preference of students and the cafeteria food. Firstly, we gave out the surveys electronically on iPads to 7 culinary arts students and they filled them out before cooking the recipe we provided. Afterwards, we went back to the kitchen to observe the students preparing the recipe (butternut squash pasta bake). Seemingly without too much help from Chef Lee Green, they managed to do a great job cooking the meal (Of course, they were under her supervision at all times). They let us try it at every stage of cooking and also gave us explanations of each step. Our team also contributed to the process by giving information on the nutritional aspect of the recipe for example how using butternut squash paste instead of cream lowers the calories but provides more micronutrients. After the pasta was done baking, we all stood around the kitchen counter and taste-tested it. As we were eating, students shared their opinions so we handed out the post-taste-test survey immediately in order to record their opinions. The five questions we asked were:
- Do you have this food often?
- Do you like the food?
- Was it easy to make?
- Would you make it again?
- Would you/r friends buy this from the cafeteria?
We also asked students to add any recommendations or changes they would make to the recipe. Most students noted that they would like to see more vegetables, or that more garlic/seasoning/herbs could be added. But of course, there was the classic, honest response that everyone was probably thinking: “more cheese”.
We took pictures and notes of both the cafeteria and the Schoolyard market garden before we left the school. The photos below were taken by Katherine Han, with permission from Lee Green.
We left the school with big smiling faces because we got to eat two delicious pasta meals but also got to conduct our surveys with no problems whatsoever. We loved how smoothly the cooperation between our team, Chef Lee Green and with the students was.
We were hit by uncertainty a few weeks ago when we learned we could only test one recipe instead of two or more. This uncertainty led us to critically think about how to continue the flow of the project. By critically thinking about solutions and using the “uncertainty + resolution” strategy by Shulman, L.S. (2005) for this particular problem, we were able to adapt and overcome this issue and therefore we successfully conducted the taste-test on one recipe. Yes, it would’ve been better to test more than one recipe but we learned that due to factors such as time, not everything will go as planned and we need to do our best to shift the problem into a solution.
After getting the responses from the tests and surveys, we sat down as a group and critically analyzed the responses. We talked about whether they make sense or they fit into our goals and objectives. We also discussed whether our results are within the scope of our project, as well as if we missed any crucial questions that would’ve helped us to get answers. The discussion we held within our team was led by what we learned in Session 9 of LFS 350 lectures, which touches on the scope of the project and ways to analyze data.
We also collaboratively discussed ways to present our data. The scope of the tests were to understand the students general opinions on the cafeteria food and the recipe. So, for example, will pie charts be enough or do we need Word Clouds as well for the short answer questions? Will we need explanations for each graph or are they self-explanatory? We led the discussion by putting out questions into the table and conversed on potential answers.
As a team, we’ve come through obstacles, moments of uncertainties and times where we needed extra consultation but most importantly, we have found ways to conquer those. The surveys and the taste-test were the most important aspects of our project since they were the means by which we collected our data. At the beginning, Marc had told us to prioritize the surveys as well and now, since we’ve administered and collected them, we need to analyze them and put them into context. By analyzing and evaluating the results, we have gained insights into why students choose not to eat at the cafeteria and what they would change about it. After analyzing, our plan is to start on the final report and make conclusions to our objectives. We plan to write the final report in chunks and then come together to discuss on it so the report flows throughout. Writing the final report will be a nice way for us to see our accomplishments throughout the study in terms of connecting ABCD principles. We tried our best to incorporate our work strategy to the principles set by Mathie, A., & Cunningham, G. (2003) by listening, asking, and putting the students at the center since it is an issue about them.
Although this is only a community-based project, it could be applied to larger food security issues. School lunch problems are not only an issue specific to Canada but across the globe; rather serious attention and research should be given to schools all over the world. In the study “Children’s Food Security and Intakes from School Meals” by Elizabeth Potamites and Anne Gordon, it is discussed how food-insecure students are eligible for free meals in the US and therefore seemingly food-secure students are more disadvantaged to get full meals at school. This is rather a different issue than our CBEL project and showing differing food security issues concerning school lunches pertaining to different geographic locations. In our CBEL, Incorporating local produce is just one step to a more food secure environment for students, but we should be able to augment the impact and install at a state/country/global scale. It is important for us to learn from these small-scale, community-based studies and be able to apply the experiences and results from them in our future careers, no matter what paths we follow.
This CBEL has allowed our group to gain many new experiences and skills. Crafting and implementing our project as well as coming together to change certain components of our project when barriers came into play has allowed us to become more efficient and effective problem solvers. Interacting with community has provided us with a real experience in the field, showed us how to communicate effectively with community members and opened us up to issues that are within our local food system. It also allowed us to utilize an Asset-Based Community Development approach which none of us were familiar with before this course. In addition, conducting a project with an interdisciplinary group has made us more open to and aware of different perspectives, ideas and solutions to an issue. Overall, the many valuable experiences and skills that this CBEL has provided us with will prove to be beneficial in our future careers.
So, that’s it then. We hope you have enjoyed following along with us as we made our way through our project. We are excited to put on the finishing touches, and share our journey and findings with our peers!