Greg Soll, of Sol Fresh Farm in Hinesburg, VT, with SBHS students enjoying eggplant parmesan made with Soll’s organically-grown eggplant.

LOCAL Eggplant, It’s what’s for Lunch!

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Thursday November 01, 2012

It all started with a farmer, a small crop surplus, and a passion for providing local food to students. Greg Soll of Sol Fresh Farm in Hinesburg, VT, with a bumper crop of eggplant and a lack of desirable markets, decided to donate his produce to a place where area students could have direct access to fresh food. He describes his passion for Farm-to-School efforts saying, “There is something pure about giving food to people who are going to prepare it well for developing students.”

Soll generously donated about 100 pounds of eggplant to SB High School this fall. With help from the Farm-to-School Coordinator and SB Nutritional Services (SBNS) staff, the eggplant was put to use in the kitchen as both a fresh food and a teaching tool. To serve, the eggplant is sliced and breaded in homemade breadcrumbs (made from SBNS homemade bread). These breaded slices are baked and served over spaghetti, topped with a serving of “Jackie’s homemade marinara sauce”—a sauce famous among District staff members and students.

Irene Sauer, the kitchen coordinator at the High School, is very enthusiastic about trying out new recipes for school meals. Sauer enjoys daily conversations with SBHS students in the lunch lines about new foods and spreading the word about the many school lunch meals already made from scratch. Sauer believes, “Kids at the high school are adventurous to try new things. They get excited when we offer different things they have not tried before.”

The eggplant parmesan school lunch is clearly a growing success. Sauer reflected, “The first time we served eggplant parmesan, we served a total of 24 servings that day. The second time it was on the menu, we served 80!”

To deepen this connection with SBHS students and to show appreciation for the continued partnership between SB Nutritional Services and Sol Fresh Farm, Sauer invited Soll to come to lunch and enjoy the eggplant parmesan made with his produce. Soll reflected on the lunch with satisfaction, “It makes me happy to see kids eating organically grown eggplant instead of McDonalds on a Thursday at lunch.”

SBHS students got a chance to ‘meet the farmer’ and have a deeper connection with their school meal that day. Some students took the opportunity to ask about Soll’s farming practices, to find out he grows all of his vegetables organically. A 9th-grader, Ellie Riehle, commented, “Seeing the farmer at lunch makes the food seem more real. It is amazing to be able to eat with the person who harvested my food.”

The partnership between SB Nutritional Services and Sol Fresh Farm has been growing for two years. Carrots, onions, beets, squash, and cabbage were purchased from this farm last year for the “local meals of the month” in South Burlington cafeterias. Additionally, Greg Soll and Irene Sauer were guest judges for the FHTMS Rebel Chef cooking contest last year. SB Nutritional Services hopes to continue the connection with this local farmer, who clearly has passion for quality produce as well as the educational value in serving local, fresh foods.

This fall, students from the new SBHS “Sustainable Foods” class will go on a field trip to Sol Fresh Farm to see where some cafeteria food is grown, learn more about Soll’s organic farming techniques, and experience farm work—harvesting, and preparing the land for winter. These types of experiences, both in the classroom, cafeteria, and surrounding community continue to provide a closer connection to food for students.

**For updates about SB School District food and farm educational experiences, be sure to check out @SBFarmtoSchool on Twitter!