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Rowan-Salisbury students eat from the farm

By Maggie Blackwell

For the Sailsbury Post

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools students are eating fruits and vegetables fresh from North Carolina farms this year, and the program is a hit.

“Farm to School” is supported by the N.C. Department of Agriculture. The USDA provides funding.

“Every year, we send a couple of people from our office to our produce vendor,” said Lisa Altmann, RSS nutrition director. “Different districts in the state come together with the Agriculture Department and Defense, and we go through the produce that will be available for the next school year. We have an allocated amount of dollars we get from USDA for these products. This year, it’s $17,000.

“We try to focus on N.C. produce, but when we can’t, we limit it to U.S. items. There are farmers who allocate to this program.”

Just last week, local students tried roasted squash. Most loved it.

“If you steam it, it turns to mush,” Altmann said. “So we roasted it. The kids liked it. We realize there are some things they’re just not going to like. So far, they’ve loved the Yukon gold potatoes, watermelon and pear slices.

“We didn’t get our grapes due to the hurricane. When we get our kale, we’ll steam it a little, or incorporate it into the salad mix.”

Altmann has worked at RSS Food Services for a little more than 18 years and says she’s learned a lot.

“West taste is different than East; North eats differently than South,” she said of Rowan County students.

Overall, she said, cabbage is generally a hit as are green beans with mini peppers.

“This year, we’ve started using frozen green beans instead of canned. The frozen beans are greener and have better appeal.”

She plans to serve zucchini sticks with ranch dressing.

It’s important, Altmann says, to pair new vegetables with the correct entree.

“I wouldn’t serve kale with pizza and tater tots — that’s a guaranteed ‘eww!’ But the same kale will be received well with macaroni and cheese.”

Altmann and her staff have planned the entire school year using fruits and vegetables from the list — mostly from N.C.. They offer “nutrition ed” classes to teachers to get students to sample new things.

This month, students will taste N.C. cabbage, N.C. collard greens, fresh black grapes, tangerine and kiwi. In December, they get to try Carnival multicolor cauliflower. January will bring Cara Cara oranges and zucchini mini-fingers. In February, students will sample blood orange clementines. March introduces salad mix with romaine and kale, red bliss potatoes and green beans with mini sweet peppers. April brings zucchini and N.C. strawberries, and May has U.S. golden pineapple, N.C. strawberries, sugar snap peas, N.C. blueberries and gold nugget Mandarin oranges.

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