How to Conduct a Tasting Event

This is a step-by-step plan for hosting a Lunchroom Tasting event. The guide provides links to communication templates that can be customized for your own Tasting. 

Pre-Planning

  1. Decide which type of tasting you’d like to host:
    • A sample of a low-participation menu item
    • A new menu item or a recipe in development
    • A fresh produce tasting to introduce new vegetables and fruits
    Send a Letter to Administration asking for permission to host the tasting event in the cafeteria during lunch.

Communication

  1. Send a Tasting Event Flyer to the PTO/PTA to distribute to parents. Also send flyers to administration to hang up around the school. Ask administration to remind students and teachers about the event during morning announcements.
  2. Contact your school or district to find out about their in-school volunteer policies for both parents and outside volunteers.
  3. Invite PTO/PTA to participate with a Volunteer Outreach Letter. If there is not a strong parent presence available, you can invite community members or college volunteers.

    Note: It’s helpful to send your volunteer guide along with the letter so that parents know what will be expected of them during the event. Here is a Sample Volunteer Guide.
     
  4. Inform all onsite kitchen staff about their responsibilities leading up to and day of the event.

Prior to Tasting

  1. If this is your first tasting event, you’ll want to order food and supplies with the assumption that 100% of the student body will participate. If you continue these tastings , anticipate 80% participation. Make sure that you order any necessary portion cups, plates, or sample boats with forks or spoons for serving.

    Note: If you’re tasting a low-participation menu item, we suggest that you hold the event the day before that item is scheduled on the menu so that you can encourage kids to buy school lunch the next day.

  2. Identify all potential allergens in order to relay to all onsite staff and volunteers.
  3. Print out kids tasting surveys: Menu Item SurveyRecipe Development Survey, or Fresh Produce Survey.
  4. Bring enough pens, crayons, markers, or colored pencils for the surveys.

    Note: Simple surveying with a flipchart and stickers is a great way to save paper and can be easier for surveying younger groups.
  5. If you plan on taking pictures or video of the event for social media or other external marketing purposes, make sure that you understand the school’s protocol for obtaining media releases. This includes gaining permission from guardians of students as well as any adults featured in the images.

Day of Management

  1. Welcome all of the volunteers and show them around the kitchen.
    • Introduce volunteers to staff and explain general kitchen ground rules.
    • Remind all volunteers about sanitation, allergens, and appropriate behavior found in the volunteer guide.
    • Designate a volunteer to take pictures of the event. Make sure they follow your district’s protocol for this.
  2. Fresh produce tastings can be prepped just before lunch. Leave one vegetable or fruit whole to show the kids.
  3. If you are tasting a cooked sample, make sure that it is prepared in the oven or steamer so that it will be ready 15 minutes prior to the first lunch.

    Note: If you have enough volunteers, portion the samples as you go and keep the larger pan in the warmer. The fresher the samples the better!
     
  4. If using individual surveys, hand out surveys and pencils to the kids along with the samples. Volunteers should interact with the kids and help with surveys. If using a flipchart, have volunteers instruct students to the chart once they’ve tasted the sample. Station one or two volunteers at the chart with stickers or pens.
  5. Instruct kids to dispose of all sample cups and utensils in proper waste receptacles. The custodian staff will be very grateful!
  6. Collect all surveys. At a later time, review the comments, then share quotes and resulting changes with administration and parents.

Event Follow-Up

  1. Send a follow-up email or letter for administration to distribute to school parents. Include pictures and any fun kid quotes or comments from the day. This will inform parents who were unable to attend or didn’t hear about the event, possibly motivating them to participate in the future.
  2. Thank-you letters are always a good way to get your volunteers coming back for more. Be sure to send your volunteers a quick thank-you to let them know you appreciate their help.

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