Second Grade Food Detectives

Research Question: How can we help others make healthier food choices?

Students in second grade are food detectives. Several years ago students began noticing large amounts of wasted food in our cafeteria specifically vegetables. After researching the benefits of eating vegetables, they realized what they were missing out on. Students began investigating ways to prepare the vegetables to make them more appealing while preserving the healthy benefits. So each year our second graders conduct annual waste measures, recipe cook-offs, and taste test surveys.

Use of Data:

data second grade

Our Timeline of Accomplishments:

  • Noticed wasted vegetables left on cafeteria lunch trays.
  • Began to study plate waste.
  • Added in the investigation of healthy and tasty recipes.
  • Began serving new recipes and conducting a taste tests.
  • Cooked spinach was transformed to spinach and fruit smoothies. They are still sold annually to students. The profits are used to fund our ongoing research.
  • Campaigned for cafeteria awareness and changes.

Students became aware of the effects of food. They began wondering if their breakfast choices were healthy. These discussions led to investigating the effect of sugar on your body. Students graphed the amount of sugar in common school breakfasts and discovered they were eating more than the recommended amount of sugar in just one meal. This led to student led discussions on the choices they were making with school snacks. Students presented their findings to others and to our community.



Second grade work would not be possible without the continued collaboration with our school and district Nutrition Departments. We work very closely with our cafeteria manager in order to prepare and serve our recipes.

  • We partner with the Bradley Wellness Center. They welcome us into their facility to learn about healthy living and good food choices. Their nutritionists teach our students about what they should be eating and why it is important. In addition, our students serve healthy smoothies and promote our project at the annual Health Fair at Bradley.
  • Whitco Produce of Dalton is a wonderful contributor to our Smoothie Sale each year.

Civic Contributions to our Community:

Our Food Detectives love to share their knowledge of healthy eating. They are very generous with their knowledge in our community.

  • Each year students take food from the garden and pair it with healthy recipe pamphlets. They sell their produce and pass out pamphlets with healthy ways to cook the produce at our local Farmers Market.
  • Students create a traveling sugar display showing the quantities of sugar in various foods and drinks. We take this display to local dentist offices during Dental Health Month.
  • Students make healthy smoothies and serve them at a local health fair. Last year, we served over 100 smoothies, with healthy recipe cards, to community members.


Integration of Core Curriculum with Research:


Students do research about the health benefits of the different vegetables we grow and the amount of sugar in different food items. Students take that information and write informational and persuasive essays about their findings.



As Food Detectives, we incorporate many math standards in our project. At the beginning of the year, the students collect data from food wasted in the cafeteria by third graders and interpret their findings of what foods were consumed the most and the foods that were wasted especially the vegetables. We use real-word experiences from our project when solving addition and subtraction word problems. We measure the growth of the vegetable that we have selected for our project using nonstandard units and we record their growth throughout the year. Students use different fractions to aid in the measurement of ingredients in new recipes to be incorporated in school lunches as well as for our smoothies that they help prepare for our school and for the community.

 Our Little Stories Of Effect On Students’ Lives:

We have had countless parents come to us with stories of their children making healthier choices at home and in restaurants. One particular story involved a little boy who had frequent cavities. He made reductions in his sugar intake. His dentist commented on how much better his teeth looked.

We have also seen changes in the snacks children bring daily. This has carried over into our holiday parties as well. Instead of cupcakes and cookies, we are seeing children bring fruits and vegetables.

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