best practices for classroom tastings

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Amy E Eiden

Feb 3, 2021, 5:54:48 PM2/3/21
to School Garden Support Organization Network
Hello All, 

I would appreciate feedback on your experiences with rules and regulations around sampling items from the school garden in the classroom. I realize that there are a lot of protocols for harvested produce that goes to the cafeteria, but I am interested in food safety protocols for classroom tastings.

More specifically, I am wondering:
  • If teachers/garden coordinators in your districts need to get a Food-Handlers Certification to work with and consume garden items?
  • Does your school district have a policy for food handling in the garden, (on a level that is more casual than cafeteria usage)?
  • If so, how did that policy come about? How do I begin a productive conversation with HDOE?
I am wanting to encourage teachers and garden coordinators to give their students the experience of tasting the food that they grow. In making a School Garden Safety Manual, I hope to answer questions that teachers and garden coordinators may have about Food Safety in Hawai'i.  

I appreciate your input.


Jezra Thompson

Feb 3, 2021, 7:45:53 PM2/3/21
to Amy E Eiden, School Garden Support Organization Network
Great question! Especially in a time of heightened safety. All of our garden and cooking educators at Berkeley Unified are food safe certified. It's easy, costs about $5 per person, and can be done online. It's a great safety net. 

Jezra Thompson, MS
Supervisor, Gardening & Cooking Programs 
Berkeley Unified School District 

What to know more about how we're affecting change in our community with improved health for students and families? Learn more about our District-wide garden-based and nutrition education, where you can review our Program reports, download curriculum, and learn more about our District Wellness Committee. 

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John Fisher

Feb 3, 2021, 11:05:11 PM2/3/21
to Amy E Eiden, School Garden Support Organization Network
Hi Amy,

That is a good question. I have often heard that "if it is just a tasting" you don't need to be Safe Serve Certified but it can't hurt to provide the training to your staff or at least some basic protocol.
Find various resources related to conducting taste tests at this Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education Training Resource collection. This page is specific to running taste tests and includes links to some comprehensive guides and some more simple taste protocols.

If you are looking for examples of School Garden Manuals and example protocol of post harvest handling you can check out there are many examples of school and district protocols.

How do I begin a productive conversation with HDOE
I would suggest you refer to a resource or two from the  page that seems acceptable/respectable for your community and DOE. Then present them to your DOE along with your adapted version. I have also heard of school food service working with county health or the ag commissioner to come up with guidelines.

In the school garden I work in we are very casual when it comes to taste testing. We do have two sinks for handwashing and wash all produce when conducting tastings. We do however nibble right out of the garden at times.

John Fisher - Director of Programs & Partnerships - 831.471.7831 -
Life Lab cultivates children's love of learning, healthy food, and nature through garden-based education.
A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with locations in Santa Cruz and Watsonville, CA

On Wed, Feb 3, 2021 at 2:54 PM Amy E Eiden <> wrote:

Rick Sherman

Feb 4, 2021, 9:52:14 AM2/4/21
to School Garden Support Organization Network
Hi Amy,

I love the responses I'm reading! about eight years ago, we (as a State in Oregon) didn't have any protocols or procedures for food safety pertaining to the school garden, so I went about creating our own.  When in doubt, you should always defer to your local Health Department and follow any State regs. you may have..  We had our State Health Department "sign off" on our plan, so it was peace of mind.  

So having said that, as far as eating or grazing right out of the garden, I use this analogy.  If I make myself a sandwich, I don't need to worry about documenting anything or being strict about the Health department rules.  If I make YOU a sandwich, then I really need to pay attention to document and follow my procedures!    So that gives the go-ahead for our students to "graze" as long as the instructor knows what s/he is doing and the kids only eat what the instructor directs them to, or they ask permission first.  When HARVESTING for the cafeteria, farmer's market, etc. strict standards need to be followed such as washing hands, excluding kids from the garden who are sick (they shouldn't be at school anyway), using washable harvest containers, etc. 

I agree that the instructor or at least the school garden coordinator nearby should be certified in a food safety course / have food handler's card.   

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