ST. ALBANS CITY – St. Albans City School has been offering taste tests in our cafeteria for years now with the goal of introducing foods and tastes to children that they might not otherwise experience. Examples include kale chips, hummus, broccoli with pasta (Mac and Trees), flavored soda water and turnip soup. Thanks to the amazing Abbey staff at our school, delicious taste tests are a frequent enough occurrence that students approach sampling tables with curiosity and an open mind. They are particularly intrigued when the food is accompanied by the farmer that grew the vegetables or provided the beef or chicken. Our staff believe that the taste testing experiences, when combined with the universal vegetable and fruit snack program at our school, have done much to broaden our student’s palates. We can say this because the Abbey staff at BFA observe that former St. Albans City School students happily choose and consume a wide variety of healthy food choices in the BFA cafeteria.

Students taste samples of Cabot Cooperative’s cheeses during a Cabot Cheese Tasting at St. Albans City School. (MITCH CRAIB, St. Albans City School)

Having observed previous taste tests successes, it was impressive to see just how popular the cheese tasting experience provided by Cabot Cooperative was on Friday, June 17. Almost every student coming to the cafeteria for lunch trooped by the cheese sampling table where Rose Gomez, a Cabot representative, provided four large trays of cheese cubes for students and adults to try. There were sharp and mild cheeses to sample and there were also cheeses of different ages. Toothpicks were used to skewer and deliver the cheese cubes to hungry mouths. Students kept coming back for more. When asked what students thought about the cheese offered, there was no equivocating over tastiness. “I think it (the cheese) was really good,” or “I like cheese, especially the orange one.” Three of the four samples were light colored.  Megan Lavalley, St. Albans City School’s food service director, concurred with student statements. “They just love it. Students and adults can’t get enough cheese.”

A St. Albans City School student picks from Cabot Cooperative’s cheese samples during a Cabot Cheese Tasting. (MITCH CRAIB, St. Albans City School)

Why offer a variety of cheese for a taste test? Ms. Lavalley pointed out that in Vermont June is harvest of the month with dairy as the focus. Therefore, she asked Cabot to visit and provide a cheese taste test because Cabot supplies the sour cream and cheese the cafeteria uses year round. She wanted students to identify with and support this prominent local producer, thus keeping our food dollars nearby. Another reason she wanted to offer a cheese tasting opportunity is that Ms. Lavalley feels that adults commonly have cheese tasting experiences at parties and gatherings and students often don’t. She wanted to treat our students and provide them with a chance to compare and contrast cheeses they might not know about.

Check out the pictures with this article to see just how pleased the students were to have this taste testing opportunity.