Fresh Vegetables and Public Schools

By Kevin Jones, Executive Chef at Maryland Institute College of Art

Recently I had the privilege to work with a local farmer and our public school system to enlighten our next generation of children about fresh vegetables and their benefits.

I had a candid conversation with one of our local elementary school administrators and they are starting a program similar to our FarmSource program.  In our conversation it was quite disturbing to hear that our next generation of college students really has not been introduced to the variety of fresh vegetables that are available locally to them.  One student grabbed a red apple and was asked if they had tried one of the green apples and she exclaimed, “No!  I am not going to eat one of those, they are not ripe yet.”  I thought this would be a great opportunity to demonstrate how good fresh vegetable can be.

We thought it would be a great experience for the children to see an action station utilizing fresh local vegetables.  I worked with a local farmer who provides the school with their fresh vegetables and we decided prepare a dish using fresh green beans.

I created a dish which I felt would be appealing to a young demographic, and basically made“green bean Parmesan” using fresh green beans, chopped tomatoes, garlic, fresh basil, and Parmesan cheese.  I blanched and shocked the green beans before service to speed up the cooking time, as I was doing the dish as a sautéed action station.  I sautéed the green beans with fresh chopped garlic, added the chopped tomatoes and finished the dish with fresh basil and grated Parmesan.  I was quite amazed at the response.  Most of the children had never even seen fresh green beans and were quite excited to see a chef in person – I kind of felt like a rock star.  The dish itself was quite the hit and many of the students returned for seconds, which I think speaks for itself in the fact that young people are often scared to try new things, much less eating their vegetables.

With the amount of recipe cards taken, hopefully we have enlightened at least a small group of youths and possibly their parents as well in the importance and deliciousness of fresh and local produce.

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