Taste tests help introduce new foods; an opportunity particularly important for children from households having limited resources to experiment with foods. Repeated exposure early in life supports the development of healthy food preferences. Children's preferences, willingness to try foods, and asking parents to buy them are positively associated with consumption.
This study's objective was to evaluate the large-scale implementation of food tastings as a key component of the CalFresh Healthy Living, University of California SNAP-Ed nutrition education delivered in schools and after-school programs using practitioner-oriented outcome evaluation.
Study Design, Setting, Participants
A convenience sample of 48,881 kindergarten to eighth grade students participating in 2,291 taste tests conducted during SNAP-Ed nutrition education in schools and after-school programs across 28 California counties during 2018-19 participated. Cooperative Extension programs delivered series-based nutrition education using a variety of age-appropriate, SNAP-Ed approved curricula focused on healthy eating with taste tests to reinforce healthy eating.
An educator-administered Taste Testing Tool conducted immediately following the food tastings captured details about the foods tasted, whether students tasted the food before, if they tasted it today, their willingness to eat it again and ask for it at home. Data were explored using descriptive statistics.
Foods most commonly tasted were fruits, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. Typically, they were served raw, paired with a familiar food, or included in a mixed dish. On average, 47% of students tasted the food before, 93% tried it today, 70% were willing to eat it again, and 65% were willing to ask for it at home. Findings will also be presented by grade and target food.
Evaluation of food tasting helps inform future food selection to ensure most children find the foods featured appealing which, in turn, improves food preferences and positively reinforces nutrition education.