Remember your first apricot?
For a good number of Golden Hill Elementary students, their first apricot was Oct. 9, 2018, also known at Golden Hill as Harvest Day.
Held once each month at lunchtime, Harvest Day is a chance for the students to taste a new fruit or vegetable. Registered dietician Gina McAteer – “Miss Gina” to the kids – sets up at a table outside of the school cafeteria and brings a fruit or vegetable to share. During lunchtime the students visit her in groups and over the years since the program began, they’ve nibbled on jicama, sampled dragon fruit, tasted sweet potato, and more.
“There are so many great fruits and vegetables out there, and the more you diversify your diet, the more you diversify your nutrition,” she said. “We can get stuck in a rut with apples, bananas, and oranges.”
Miss Gina, herself a Golden Hill Elementary alumni, has been visiting the school for 5 years as part of Shoprite of Warwick’s community outreach program. The idea, she said, is to help students get over their hesitancy to try new foods. As she passes out the dried apricots, she asks the students to first describe its fragrance and texture. When they finally take a taste, she leads a discussion on how it sounds when you bite it, the flavor, and what it brings to mind.
“Sometimes we’re too quick about deciding that we don’t like something that’s new or that seems strange to us,” she explains, “I try and get the students to really give it a chance and think about what they like or don’t like about it.”
Of course, no student is forced to try a new food if they don’t want to, but seldom does Miss Gina hear a “no thank you” from the crowd. Not everybody likes everything, and while the apricots were a big hit with some students – “They’re like gummy bears!” – others took a teeny tiny bite and then tossed them. Her one rule: “Don’t yuck someone else’s yum,” a request that negative thought about a food be kept hush so you don’t influence someone else’s taste experience.
“The students are always so open and excited to see what they’re going to taste each time,” she said. “There are so many healthy and nutritious foods out there, and my hope is that they won’t be afraid to experiment with them.”