Like many of the students at Zucker Middle School of Science last Thursday, sixth-grader Samuel Ferguson expected the worst of his first taste of freshly juiced vegetables and fruit.
“I thought it was going to be nasty because it smelled funny,” said Ferguson of the thick green concoction made of kale, apples, carrots and bananas.
Ferguson was surprised to find, despite the fact that he could see the vegetables going into the drink, that it was sweet, a bit like apple juice.
“I liked it,” said Ferguson, who later brought baby carrots and a tangerine packed in his lunch to juice.
The juicing demonstration marked the beginning of a possible collaboration to introduce schoolchildren, less likely to be exposed to fresh vegetables and fruits, to juicing.
At Zucker, three interested parties came together for the juice-tasting experiment: Mickey Brennan of The Sprout in Mount Pleasant, Louis Yuhasz of Louie’s Kids and Dr. Marcus Newberry, a founder of the Cooper River Bridge Run and a representative of Lighten Up Charleston.
Last year, Newberry approached Yuhasz at the Bridge Run press luncheon to pitch the idea of working together on bringing juicing to schools. Yuhasz, a loyal customer of Brennan, pitched it to him.
Brennan, a guru of juicing in the Charleston area, already wanted to start an outreach program in the schools and recently had served samples to students at Mary Ford Elementary School.
All see it as a solution to the problem of getting kids to eat more vegetables and fruits and hopefully turn away from soft drinks and other junk foods.
At Mary Ford, Brennan tracked the kids’ responses by asking them to place a piece of green or red paper in a box. Green was a vote that they liked it. Red that they didn’t.
Out of more than 300 responses at Mary Ford, Brennan counted only 11 pieces of red paper. The response at Zucker was running about the same.
Yuhasz, who developed a relationship with Zucker through Louie’s Kids Fit Club programs for three years, suspects some vote down the juice because of peer pressure or just to stand out and be different.
Brennan, Newberry and Yuhasz see a future in getting more fresh juices into schools and vow to find money to fund it. Newberry hopes to ask the Bridge Run to fund a program through grants.
All fully understand the bureaucracy of school district cafeteria contracts and the perceived threats by some lunch providers, but vow to find allies — namely, friendly principals such as Zucker’s Jake Perlmutter — to make it happen.
Part of the effort is to dispel the myth that juicing is expensive.
Brennan says juicing can be done with a simple blender using items such as frozen spinach, canned or fresh pineapple, and fresh apples and bananas. He also says that the price of juicers is not exorbitant.
The Breville juicer he used in Thursday’s demo cost $100 at Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Perlmutter knows his students well and also sees value in getting juicing into the schools.
“This makes eating vegetables a more palatable experience for them, and frankly, they may not have time to cook these things. This makes it easy and accessible.”