In June the two farmers planted enough sweet potatoes to feed about 950 students in grades K-5. After Israel “volunteered all of his services for the project,” the chef, Morris, Cooley and the two cafeteria managers made and brought sweet potato dishes to an August meeting and tasted them all. While both chosen for the school tastings were Israel’s recipes, “the other ones were all good” and gave the cafeteria leaders ideas on how to prepare the spuds. The managers are required to serve orange vegetables during a certain number of lunches, according to Cooley.
Israel prepared taste samplings of the two finalists – sweet potato medley and sweet potato mash – for the students in late September and early October with the cafeteria managers. During the taste tests, “the students were very receptive and I would say mature about trying a new food,” according to Cooley. “There were definitely kids who didn’t try it, but everyone was respectful of the importance of trying new foods. I was also encouraged there were a good number of children who said, ‘I already eat these at home.’ There were a fair number of kids who hadn’t tried them,” but seeing their friends shoveling down the orange taters made them more apt. to.
The BPS principal reports, “Students loved voting during the taste tests!” At both schools, the winner was the sweet potato mash.
So sweet potatoes were the stars of Food Day Oct. 23 at BIS and Oct. 24 at BPS. When children ate the mashed crops, their tables had decorations made out of – what else? – sweet potatoes, mostly by Cooley’s relatives. “We had pigs and porcupines and birds and monsters.”
Local restaurants have joined the party, making sure the spud appeared on their menus: Sherman House, baked sweet potatoes, Oct. 25-26; Pizza Haus, sweet potato fries, through November; Lil’ Charlie’s, sweet potato pie, scalloped sweet potatoes and sweet potato hash browns, Oct. 24-26; Big Four Café, sweet potato medley, Oct. 23-24; Margaret Mary Café, sweet potato medley and sweet potato and black bean stew, Oct. 25 lunch; Butcher Shoppe at Walhill Farm, sweet potato chips, daily.