A simple kale salad increases consumption of leafy greens and teaches kids the farm-to-table connection. When kids ask for kale, it’s time to listen up!
That’s what happened at Malcolm X Elementary when Garden Coordinator Rivka Mason served K-5 students a simple salad made with dinosaur kale grown in the school garden. “It was a hit! Then one day, I was in the garden with a third grade class, and a little boy had his head down,” Rivka recalls. “I asked what was wrong and he said, ‘I’m really hungry, and I don’t like the pizza in the cafeteria. How come we can’t get the stuff we grow in the garden in our cafeteria?’"
Rivka jumped into action, applied for a Whole Kids Foundation grant and began collaborating with school staff to make the idea a reality. The grant funds were used to buy salad dressing ingredients, plant more kale in the garden, and also supplement that with kale purchased weekly at the local farmer’s market.
Soon fresh dinosaur kale salad was being made by the students and served to the entire school in the cafeteria once a week. Even kids bringing their own lunch receive a small sample!
Every Tuesday, Rivka harvests and purchases the greens, then preps them at home. Each Wednesday, a classroom is assigned to make the salad. By the end of the school year, every classroom in every grade has had at least one opportunity to prepare salad for all their friends. “I can’t believe I’m making food with my own hands!” exclaimed one first grader while making the salad. It’s that hands-on relationship with food that develops kids’ curiosity and feeling of ownership.
Partnering with teachers and cafeteria staff was critical to the success of this initiative. Rivka worked closely with the cafeteria manager to figure out the best way to integrate the salad into the lunchroom. “We also had to coordinate with teachers to figure out the classroom salad-making rotation, which took some time and energy, but they were willing and it was worth it,” Rivka says.
Not only are students learning to love fresh kale, so are many of their families. “They all take the recipe home,” Rivka says. “One student who gets homemade lunches asked her parent if she could buy lunch on Wednesdays just so she could get the dinosaur salad. Another student told me his family made the salad for a wedding.”
Even though these “salad days” are so simple—easy enough to replicate at almost any school—they’ve had a profound impact. Student consumption of dark, leafy greens is up, the kids enjoy hands-on experience with food, and they’re also learning a deeper lesson.
“All we’ve done is make this one salad, and the kids have made an important connection,” Rivka says. “When they plant it, pick it and make it, they can connect the garden with what they eat, and then they gain a true understanding of where our food comes from.”
Malcolm X Dino Kale Salad
one bunch dinosaur kale (also called lacinato or Tuscan kale)
3 tablespoons olive oil
one medium garlic clove, crushed (optional)
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
soy sauce to taste
splash of rice vinegar
- De-stem the kale and chop greens thinly.
- Place in bowl and sprinkle olive oil over them.
- With clean hands, massage the kale for 1-2 minutes or until it has softened and shrunk in size.
- Add crushed garlic and splash of lemon, soy sauce and vinegar.
- Serve and enjoy!