Plant Sciences students win prize with healthy smoothies
How do you encourage secondary school students to eat more fruit and vegetables? Plant Sciences students Yasmin Dijksterhuis and Alice Leung developed tasty and sustainable smoothies that won them the Food Boost Challenge.
Young people aged between 12 and 20 eat a lot less fruit and vegetables than the recommended daily amounts. This is particularly prevalent among children with parents from low and middling socio-economic positions. Educational institutions and companies have therefore challenged young people to come up with ideas to make healthy eating more attractive to their peers. For this Food Boost Challenge, second-year Plant Sciences students Yasmin and Alice came up with fruit and vegetable smoothies, which may soon be for sale in the school canteen. The two developed an innovative idea and were declared winners of the challenge on 24 May 2022.
Yasmin’s and Alice’s concept fitted the target group the best. “We first conducted a survey among VMBO, HAVO and VWO students to find out what their preferences were,” says Yasmin. “Were they keen about smoothies, and what colours and flavours would they want to buy?” A total of 553 secondary school students completed their survey.
In the school canteen
The vast majority of students (87%) said they would like to see fresh smoothies for sale in their school canteens. Almost a third of them drank smoothies several times a week. Accordingly, Yasmin and Alice chose not to change their behaviour, but rather what was available, so choosing healthy food would be easier. The idea of Veggie Smooth was born.
As far as Alice and Yasmin are concerned, supermarkets’ smoothie range is not healthy enough yet. “Some of them contain more sugar than soft drinks. For our smoothies, we made combinations of fruit and veg that taste good, but don’t contain much fruit sugars. They contain quite a lot of vegetables without tasting too much like them,” explains Yasmin. Hidden vegetables, since if you ask students what they want, they mainly ask for sweet fruit, like bananas and strawberries. Veggie Smooth smoothies contain 60% vegetables - such as bell peppers, carrots and tomatoes - and 40% fruit.
The Food Boost Challenge jury was also impressed because the ingredients for Veggie Smooth smoothies come from residual waste streams. Yasmin: “We heard from growers that not all fruit and vegetables end up on shelves for a variety of reasons, such as them not being the right size. This leads to lots of waste. These leftover strawberries and tomatoes are given a new lease of life by going into schools.” For preservation-based reasons, the produce is frozen in small pieces then prepared fresh at the schools.
In the immediate future, Alice and Yasmin will continue to develop their idea, which they will put their prize money (€5,000) towards. “Large supermarkets have already shown interest in the smoothies. So we will definitely continue with Veggie Smooth, alongside our studies,” state Alice and Yasmin. They are also receiving support from Foodvalley NL, the network organisation focused on agrifood, located on Wageningen Campus. As well as the Food Boost Challenge, the pair also won the USA-AppHarvest award. They now have the chance to pitch the Veggie Smooth concept at AppHarvest’s headquarters in Kentucky (USA).