Say cheese!

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Last week, MFL MarMac students enjoyed trying Swiss cheese, donated by Swiss Valley Farms in Luana, as part of the district’s monthly Taste Test Tuesdays. (Photos by Audrey Posten)

Brandi Crozier, an AmeriCorps volunteer who’s now serving MFL MarMac through the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, hands out Swiss cheese to elementary students.

Many students enjoyed tasting the Swiss cheese, while others were not as thrilled.

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Throughout the school year, MFL MarMac students of all ages are broadening their knowledge of food through monthly Taste Test Tuesdays.

Taste Test Tuesdays follow an online Harvest of the Month calendar, said Brandi Crozier, a volunteer with AmeriCorps who’s now serving the school district to promote local food and wellness initiatives through the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative. 

“It provides a lot of options for fresh, local foods, and foods we have access to,” Crozier said of the calendar.

Some months, students sample a food they’ve likely already tried, like an apple, while other months offer, for many, a new experience, like beets. In January, students tasted Swiss cheese, donated by Swiss Valley Farms in Luana.

While Taste Test Tuesdays give students a chance to try a sample-size portion of the Harvest of the Month item, they’re also learning about how the food was produced, where it came from, how it can be prepared and eaten, and the nutritional value it offers, Crozier said.

At the elementary school, students gather their food sample as they pick up their afternoon milk, then head back to the classroom to try it, all while their teacher reads aloud about the item.

In the case of the Swiss cheese, or “mouse cheese,” as one student called it, students learned that the cheese was created just several miles down the road, using milk from many local dairy producers. Many recognized Swiss Valley and noted that they knew friends or relatives who worked there.

They learned the cheese originated in Switzerland and comes in several varieties. It is known for its holes, which begin to form after 28 to 40 days from the carbon dioxide released from bacteria during its development. The cheese is high in calcium, helping their bones grow strong.

The taste test yielded varied reactions among the elementary students. Some gobbled it up right away, saying, “I want more of this cheese. It’s so good!” Others were more leery, making sour faces after just one bite. The mild, nutty, sweet flavor was not one they were used to when sampling cheese. No matter what, though, they were all willing to give it a chance.

“We really encourage them all to try it,” Crozier said, “and not to reject it because of what it looks like.”

Next month, students will taste and learn about pork.

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