Small Bites teaches big lessons

Students at Drew Charter in East Lake sample the snacks they made through the Small Bites Adventure Club.
Students at Drew Charter in East Lake sample the snacks they made through the Small Bites Adventure Club.

When Julia Watkins asked kids where their food came from, she often heard the same response: “From the grocery store.”

Hearing that answer and having worked at a farmers market motivated Watkins to incorporate food lessons into her pre-K classes at Drew Charter School in East Lake.

“I’m interested in exposing kids to where food comes from and how to grow your own,” she said. “It’s also important to expose them to different fruits and vegetables.”

Watkins found a way to achieve both goals through the Small Bites Adventure Club, a subscription program launched in 2018 by Judith Winfrey and Erin Croom. The partners knew each other through Georgia Organics and had collaborated on various food projects. And both knew that research shows nine out of 10 kids don’t eat the recommended quantities fruits and vegetables.

“We kept hearing that parents and teachers wanted an easy way to introduce their kids to fruits and vegetables,” said Croom. “But the feedback was they didn’t have time to pull together the materials, make up a lesson plan and make the recipes. We do that for them and give them the information so they’re comfortable talking about food and nutrition.”

With the Small Bites program, Watkins receives a box of fresh ingredients, easy recipes and ideas for how to enjoy the results. Though her classroom only has a blender, a handheld food processor and plastic utensils, her students have concocted pesto, salsas, salad dressings – even butter.

“That one was actually easy and used just a container for shaking whole milk,” she said. “We’ve also made different kinds of smoothies and dips, like ranch and honey mustard.”

A key element of the Small Bites’ success, said Watkins, is that the students do the hands-on work.

“Being part of creating the snack or recipe really changes everything,” she said. “They all want to try it. Even when they say they don’t like or won’t try something, after they’ve been part of making it, they’re willing to try it.”

The simple, no-cook recipes highlight a Georgia grower or ingredient. After a trip to a local farm, Watkins’ students were thrilled to see the farmer they knew featured in one of the recipes.

“We always have material about the farmers, where they come from and their products,” said Winfrey. “And we stay seasonal: We’ll soon have recipes for a summer salsa, carrots with groovy green dressing and something that highlights strawberries and spinach.”

Since starting three years ago, Small Bites has served more than 20,000 students 100,000 tastes of fruits and veggies. The program sends food kits to more than 200 schools, clubs and early care programs around the Southeast. Teachers receive a food safety video and an all-exclusive kit to make an easy snack for 25 kids. And every so often, that kit holds a big surprise.

“The Super Power Kale Pesto kills it every time,” said Winfrey. “Young people go home and ask their parents to buy kale. It really wows everybody.”

Information about Small Bites Adventure Club is online at smallbites.club.

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.

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