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The Power of Food and Fun

girl with fruit wrap

“Food + Play = Empowerment” is the motto of Taste Quest, a nonprofit from Nashville, TN. Emily Sauerman, the executive director, uses this formula to help kids expand their horizons and eat more healthy food. “Play is the best way to learn because it triggers our brains to pursue what makes us curious,” she says, “and food is a fantastic medium for play because there are always more things to try.” Sauerman chatted with Beyondish about how Taste Quest got started, why games get kids to try new food, and how food helps them find empowerment.

What led you to the revelation that kids and food could be a powerful combination?

I was doing some freelance writing for a local food magazine here in Nashville and I was writing stories on ‘Food Heroes.’ Those were people in the area who are using food to do something good, and sometimes it didn’t have anything to do with the food that they were producing. For instance, there is a local granola company here that hires women who are coming out of situations of abuse. It’s not like the granola was chosen just because it was delicious and sellable, but because they needed something that was easily reproducible, easy to teach, and to give these women a source of income. I was writing a bunch of these different stories. When the opportunity came up to try to write some content for kids, I jumped on that idea, trying to think through how to get kids interested in food and how to use food to empower kids.

So this was the A-ha Moment?

The idea for Taste Quest came about in this moment – this combination of food as a source of empowerment and play-based learning as a way to learn –combining those as a way for kids to really figure out what they’re capable of so that they feel a sense of agency over what they put in their body and how they can play a role serving their family. It all came together in my brain in a moment. I realized that I would be able to leverage that equation: food plus play equals empowerment.

Emily Sauerman, Executive Director, Taste Quest.

So where did you go from there?

I launched it as a food magazine, but eventually, people were asking me to do a lot of in-person activities, so I started doing that instead of trying to create just content. In late 2021, I was approached by a food bank that was trying to give away food and having a hard time because the social workers were hearing back from the families that they didn’t know what to do with some of those ingredients. The families were recent immigrants so they weren’t familiar with it on a cultural level, or [they] were living in a food desert and just had never used a lot of these ingredients before. There was a giant gap between what they were used to preparing and their skills. In some cases, the families were actually returning the free food because they didn’t want it to be wasted. And so the food bank was trying to figure out how can we empower kids to grow their food awareness and knowledge to be the ambassador to their families. I started doing a little dance because that’s exactly what we’re all about. Everything we’ve done since then has been about that idea of equipping the kids with not just culinary skills, but a whole set of life skills that you can practice when you work with food.

Of course you added your secret sauce to the equation.

We’re doing it all through play. Everything we do is either an experiment, a game, a craft, or a story, and/or a combination of those things. All of that triggers a very positive sense of curiosity and motivation that drives kids to seek out more knowledge.

So how do games get kids to eat unusual foods?

The reason why the game is important is because if you give a kid cilantro or a green pepper, they’re going to go, “ewww!” But if you make them roll the dice and they land on cilantro or green pepper, they will eat it. It happens every single time. Play-based learning shifts things in our brains to be much more optimistic, more adventurous. It stretches comfort zones. And it’s really effective. We’re trying to harness that with food to help stretch kids’ minds.

More information about Taste Quest can be found at


LA Bourgeois

LA Bourgeois is a writer and creativity coach based in the eclectic food enclave of Ithaca, New York. Her enthusiastic embrace of food and business led her to run a cafe/bar and wine shop in Colorado for a little over a decade. Now, she uses her words to delight her readers and share her adventures at



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