Kids know the difference between bland, stale produce and the fresh kind. One second grader quoted in a USA Today article said, "They're sweeter than the ones you get at the grocery store - and no bruises." She's talking about the farm-fresh apple that was her dessert.
The National Farm to School Program, a non-profit that aims to connect farmers with nearby school cafeterias, has emerged to address the growing effort to get kids to eat fresh produce. The program provides schools with produce, meats, and dairy products from area farmers who have it fresh, according to the article. In 1997, only six local programs existed, but now there are nearly 2,000 programs in 39 states.
Schools, which have commonly relied on cheaper processed foods, have had to think differently to source food locally. But those involved say it's worth it. Marion Kalb, co-director of the National Farm to School Network, a Kellogg Foundation project created to support farm-to-school efforts, said in the article, "We've found that if kids can meet the farmer who actually grew the food, they're much more likely to eat it."
And recognition helps too - at one school the food service director said when she started serving whole potatoes, the majority of the kids did not know what they were. They had only eaten french fries or instant potatoes.
Farmers have an added business concerns now: One farmer in the story, Joe Czajkowski of Hadley, Massachusetts explained that he must wait a long 60 days to receive payment for deliveries to the 20 schools he serves in central Massachusetts, and because schools make small orders, he spends 25% of his time servicing only about 8% of his clientele. But, he says, it's worth it since the program also provides his employees with year-round work.
The article adds that some states are trying to support local initiatives, and some teaches are even incorporating local foods into the curriculum. Now students may mean it when the claim the dog ate their homework.
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