Try “One Bite” Salsa Straight from the Garden

Guest Post by Mindy Bañuelos, First Grade Teacher at Pueblo Vista Magnet School

It was 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday–time for small reading groups! As a first grade teacher, reading and writing are always at the top of my list. When I sat down with my reading group, I realized I forgot my “green juice.” I asked a student to hand it to me.

Photo by Alisha Mishra on Pexels.com

As he handed me the juice he asked, “Maestra, what is in there?” I responded, “Spinach, kale, ginger, lime and cilantro!” Before I finished saying the ingredients, he had already scrunched up his face.

I giggled. I always try to find a second or two to share my unfinished journey of healthy eating with my students. I am no expert, but I am trying. A few years ago, I learned I needed to work on my iron level, so I started incorporating “green juice” with iron-rich leafy greens.

I’ve been adapting my diet for the last six years. I wish I had pictures of my fridge over that time. I would love to tell a story to my students about how my eating has changed. I hadn’t noticed the change of my fridge items until a friend pointed it out. She was amazed by the variety of healthy options. So many greens! 

I wish I had taken advantage of the child’s interest in my green juice, but I felt I had to get back on schedule. I could have called a community circle to talk about how food makes us feel. What a great way to build classroom culture around food and my experience with food.

When I was given the book, Chicks and Salsa by Aaron Reynolds to read after a lesson in the school garden, I was excited! This was my opportunity to enjoy talking about food with my students.

Personally, it was my favorite lesson of the year, and definitely the most memorable! Nearly every student tried a bite of salsa made from a cherry tomato cut in half and stuffed with small pieces of pepper, onion, and cilantro and topped with a squirt of lime.

I can still hear my students saying, “That is maestra’s favorite! Cilantro is her favorite.” Since then, I have tried to grow cilantro in my backyard. I am on trial number five.  

Despite the fact that I am not an expert gardener, I still find the importance and joy of sharing my experiences with food, the connection between garden-to-classroom and farm-to-table lessons. The lesson, One Bite Salsa, gave me that opportunity. We read, harvested, and tasted! After reading the book, I completed a guided writing lesson in which students drew their version of salsa, learned new Spanish vocabulary words, and wrote their own recipes!

Since that lesson, I’ve noticed that my students are more willing to try foods that they never tasted before. My students’ enthusiasm and enjoyment for nutrition reminded me of the importance of making time for food education during our busy school day. I am constantly trying to stick to a schedule. However, every day is different and that is what makes it special! 

Food Literacy Resources

About the Author

Mindy has been teaching first grade at Pueblo Vista Magnet School for six years. Her favorite food is fresh salsa, guacamole and cucumbers with tajín.  She enjoys spending down time with friends and her fiancée. She aspires to grow as a bilingual educator. 

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