Since January, when the Fairfield school system began its monthly Sample Days in cafeterias, students have tried healthy foods that may have been unfamiliar to some of them, like fresh, raw sugar snap peas, red pepper strips and cottage cheese with pineapple.

But the Sample Day last Thursday introduced students at most Fairfield public schools to a more exotic menu item: chick peas in their spreadable form in which they are mixed with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic to create a healthy Mediterranean side dish.

Food service staff were delighted the hummus received thumbs up from virtually all the young food critics at North Stratfield School. Only Matt Robinson, 8, gave it a "maybe," and Angel Rodriguez, 7, was the only flat out "no." "I didn't like it. It tasted a little weird with the carrot," Angel said.

Matt thought it was "OK," and admitted he might be willing to give it a second try.

For others, even those trying it for the first time, it was a hit. "I never had hummus before. I loved it," said Meredith Wargo, 9, who also loves the concept of the Sample Day. "I tried the soda bread in March. I think this is good because you can tell your parents and they can buy it for you and then you can have a healthy snack instead of eating Cheetos or Pringles," Meredith said.

"It's delicious. It has good ingredients, not bad ingredients," said Josh Sachakov, 9, who admits to having hummus "many times." Introducing students to healthy, nutritious foods is behind the Sample Day program, according to Michelle McCabe, a parent and member of the Fairfield public schools' Wellness Committee. McCabe said children can be reluctant to try new foods at home, but in the school environment they are sometimes more willing to sample when they see peers doing so.

That, in fact, happened Thursday. "It was great to see the kids who didn't get the hummus the first time go back and ask for it. That's very exciting," she said. Parents may be surprised to discover a healthy, new food their children will eat," McCabe said.

"If kids are given the opportunity they can be steered in a healthy direction," said Joann Fitzpatrick, manager of food and nutrition services for the Fairfield school district. She said the Sample Day program not only introduces some students to new foods but helps generate some excitement about school meals and how healthy they have become.

The positive response means hummus will likely be added now and then to the school lunch menu, Fitzpatrick said.

Thursday's event marked the first time parents collaborated with Sample Day. They passed out "I tried it" stickers to all those who were willing to taste the hummus.

"I love the idea of them trying new foods when they're not with me and coming home with a sticker saying, `I tried it,' so we can have a dialogue about new foods, especially healthy ones," said Karen Lynch, whose daughter Gianna, 6, enjoyed the hummus. "I'll incorporate it into our meals," Lynch said.

Gianna was not alone in her favorable review of the hummus. "I ate the whole thing. It was so good," said Derek Grindrod, 6, who proudly showed off his "I tried it" sticker.

"It was really yummy," said Nicky Faustini, 6, who scooped up the creamy concoction with his finger.

After Olivia Seward, 6, finished the carrot stick that came with the hummus she got creative and dipped other vegetables from her salad into it. "She tried it with everything except the tomato," said Miranda Broad, 5.