Students receive fresh, local produce through N.C. Farm to School program

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 4, 2015

Fruits and vegetables are a vital part of a healthy life, and the North Carolina Farm to School program is helping Rowan-Salisbury School System make sure all students get the nutrients they need.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, school-aged children should eat anywhere from one and a half to three cups of vegetables and one to two cups of fruit each day. Active kids should eat even more than that.

North Carolina Farm to School connects the Rowan-Salisbury School System to produce grown by North Carolina farmers. The partnership provides fresh fruits and vegetables to students and boosts sales for local farms, such as Patterson Farms in China Grove.

Schools receive North Carolina peaches, Asian pears, watermelon, sweet potatoes, collards, apples, cabbage, carrots and more, according to Libby Post, Rowan-Salisbury’s director of child nutrition.

She especially likes it when they receive unique fruits and vegetables that are new to the students.

“We try to really introduce different things to everyone,” she said, adding that the program allows the students to try things they might not have ever had before.

“They say, ‘We don’t get these at home,’” Post said.

The Rowan-Salisbury School System has participated in North Carolina Farm to School program six of the last nine years. Farm to school was established in North Carolina in 1997.

The North Carolina Department of Agriculture picks up the produce from North Carolina farms and gives it to the distributor that delivers to Rowan-Salisbury schools on Tuesdays.

“It’s fresh,” Post said.

School nutrition employees then use those fruits and vegetables in their regular meals.

Two weeks ago, the district ordered 350 cases of North Carolina strawberries, and roughly 200 of those cases came from Patterson Farm in China Grove.

The school system also typically receives a USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable grant, which allows the students to receive snacks of fresh fruits or vegetables three days each week.

Koontz, Overton, Isenberg, Hanford-Dole and North Rowan elementary schools benefit from the grant.

Post said she expects the State Board of Education to approve the district’s 2015-16 grant during its June board meeting. She hopes to have $100,000 awarded to the school system specifically for fresh fruits and vegetables.

North Rowan Elementary first-grader Jeremiah Martin tried kiwi for the first time through the USDA grant.

“It was good,” he said. “This was my first time trying it.”

“I think it tastes sweet and a little bit of sour,” said his classmate, Addison Connor.