Good times for kids are sprouting up at Hy-Vee

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kids get involved through the Sprouts – Get Out and Grow program at the Austin Hy-Vee. - Herald file photo

Have you ever heard these types of comments from children speaking of vegetables?

“I don’t like this — I love it,” Jacob, 6, regarding a cheddar chard quesadilla.

“I just love this,” Hailey, 7, regarding working in the garden.

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“This is so much fun,” Blake, 5, regarding preparing a recipe.

In the “Sprouts — Get Out and Grow” program, exclusively at Austin Hy-Vee, these comments have become routine.  This garden, totally devoted to children increasing and loving their vegetables, has sprouted into something big, and I wanted to share the “harvest” thus far with you.

The Sprouts program began with kids (ages 3 to 9) from the Austin Public Schools Kids Korner program on June 8.  In each class, the kids come to the garden to experience and explore vegetables the way they are meant to be explored – right in the garden.  This year, our class is working with the following vegetables (and herbs): spinach, tomatoes, peppers, Swiss chard, green beans, squash, zucchini, carrots, cilantro and basil.

Many hours of planning go into each class to make it kid-friendly, organized and full of learning.

Part of the class is devoted to using sensory exploration to discover a new vegetable in a different way.  The kids are explorers embarking on a mission.  Many people would be surprised on how well this technique works in getting a child to try a vegetable.

The children are much more willing to try a new food that they have gotten a chance to touch, see, describe, hear and smell.

The kids are telling me what it tastes like in class!  Another important feature of the class is to work in the garden; however, it isn’t work to the kids.  They have enjoyed planting, playing “Plants & Robbers” (pulling the robbers [a.k.a. weeds] out so they don’t continue to steal water and nutrients from the soil where the vegetables are planted) and harvesting (our first harvest from the garden was July 6 – chard).

Then we embark on preparing a recipe.  The kids have prepared a Spinach Salad with Lemony Dressing, Chard Quesadillas, Green & Orange Pasta Salad and Fruity Chardy Salad.  The response from the kids has been very positive, they enjoy the cooking (in the heat or the rain) and they always seem to enjoy the eating.

The program was primarily funded through the Minnesota Statewide Health Improvement Program and Austin Hy-Vee.  Besides the daytime classes currently filled by Kids Korner programming, there are evening classes available.

You can find a full listing of classes online at by clicking on Hy-Vee Dietitians under the Health Tab.  If you and your child is interested in an upcoming evening class, please register through Austin Community Education by calling 460-1706 or online at

Chard Quesadillas

All you need:

1 large bunch Swiss chard, washed, stems removed

8 whole-wheat tortillas

Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups shredded low-fat cheddar cheese

Salsa, if desired

All you do:

1. Wash chard and rip away leaves from stem.

2. Cut or tear into 1- to 2-inch pieces.

3. Spray each tortilla with nonstick cooking spray on one side of tortilla.

4. Over half of each tortilla, sprinkle cheese and a layer of Swiss chard pieces.

5. Fold over and lay gently into heated sauté pan, cooking for 2-3 minutes on each side.

6. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.  Cut each half into fourths.  Serve with salsa!