Janet Valdez contributed to this story.
It’s the seventh-inning stretch at Target Field, and you start to get hungry.
Everywhere at the Minnesota Twins ballpark, you can find hot dogs, nachos and other fast-food options. But at Gate 34, you can find a different, healthier option.
You may not think about salads when you think about baseball game concessions, but youth in Twin Cities nonprofit Roots for the Home Team are trying to change that. The organization sells homegrown salads, created by youth from local gardening programs with help from Twin Cities chefs, at sports venues.
For example, one salad, called “Ode to Minnesota,” includes barley, squash, beets, cranberries and fresh mint, among other items. The recipe was created by a team of youth that includes Zarea Mobley, a sophomore at St. Paul Johnson Senior High School who has been part of Urban Roots for two years.
“It’s a salad that is based on things that are grown here in Minnesota … to show that we can grow vegetables here in Minnesota, even though the state is kind of a colder state,” Mobley said.
Entrepreneurial dietitian Sue Moores established Roots for the Home Team in 2012. She was inspired by youth garden programs in the Twin Cities and started the program to change people’s perception of healthy food, she said. The program does this by teaching youth how to create and sell salads as a healthy alternative.
A ballpark may seem to be a strange place to find a salad, but not to Moores.
“If I could change people’s belief in eating better,” Moores said, “that is a win for them as well – kids certainly, and really the community as a whole.”
Moores partnered with youth gardening programs, such as Urban Ventures, Urban Roots, Dream of Wild Health and Appetite for Change, to let youth achieve the mission. In five years, Roots has had about 230 youth and has sold roughly 1,600 salads at local venues, including Target Field and TCF Bank Stadium, according to the program’s website.
“Fans are appreciative,” Moore said, “and it is so great to see kids’ appreciation and how they get recognized for all the hard work that they’ve done before. They see a lot of wins on a lot of different levels.”
Local youth grow 60 percent of the salad ingredients on a fertile foundation provided by gardening programs. They sell Roots their produce, create salad recipes and then get paid to sell their salads at games. On game days, they offer samples to entice people to try their salads. About 40 percent of Roots’ sales comes from sampling, Moores said.
Selling salads at baseball games is a challenge that not all youth can meet, but youth from Roots step out of their comfort zone and become risk-takers, according to Moores.
“You can see just really big eyes when they walk in because the ballpark is immense,” Moores said. “You can literally see their wings just expand because they got a whole lot of extra courage and confidence because of what they accomplish over one game.”
This year’s group is made up of 40 to 50 students. Mobley was invited to join and accepted, thinking about the big picture and how she would be able to help others, she said.
Being able to see customers smile and knowing she is making a difference is one of Mobley’s favorite things about participating, she said.
Mobley hopes to continue being part of both Urban Roots and Roots for the Home Team.
“It’s nice to see people happy that there is healthy food at a baseball game,” she said.