Monday, May 24, 2010

Going VERY Local in Rhode Island

The best thing about going to a national conference is the opportunity to be inspired by folks from across the country. Then, you can take their ideas and experiences home as precious seeds to plant and nurture in your own community. Solange Morrissette, General Manager, Sodexo School Services, for Pawtucket, Newport, and Jamestown, Rhode Island, is one of those awe-inspiring people. When you hear what Solange has done in her schools, it is easy to see why Kids First Rhode Island gave her a Locavore Leader award. Her impressive achievements showcase the fact that management companies are helping students eat local and eat well!

Our first ever All Local Lunch Day was actually the brainchild of a Local Farmer who thought it would be great to serve a meal that was made up entirely of foods grown near the school. From that suggestion came The 15 Mile Meal, everything served was sourced with 15 miles of the School District. Since we do not have many protein choices grown in RI, we opted for a menu that was mostly vegetarian; students had four menu choices, Eggplant Parmesan, Veggie Pizza, a Bok Choy Stir Fry, or Spinach Salad. We have local eggs so the protein on the Spinach Salad was a hard boiled egg. The students also enjoyed roasted vegetables, rolls from a bakery in town, apple tarts, and Rhody Fresh Milk. Engaging farmers, families, and the community was key to the success of this event so we invited families to join their children for lunch.

To understand how to build the menu, we toured local farms for a flavor for what was available and to build a relationship with the farmers. The hit of the day was Dirt Devil, a local cow who stopped by to visit with the students and teach them about dairy farming!

The event was such a success that Sodexo will take it state wide in September; we will serve over 42,000 Rhode Island children a lunch featuring local foods, including local pasta and sauce, vegetarian chili made from RI grown veggies, and vegetable pizza as well as a RI specialty known as a Saugy, some call it a hot dog but it is Rhode Island through and through.

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