Incorporating Fresh Produce Into School Lunch

Farmers and coordinators in Alabama are implementing two different programs to bring locally grown produce to schools. In Montgomery, the Farm to School program is funded by a 2014 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture amounting approximately $100,000. In Foley, Alabama, local farmers and a Foley-based produce distributor are starting a food aggregation hub to collect, package, and ship local produce to restaurants, grocery stores, and schools.

The Foley produce will be distributed with the label “Fresh From Foley.” The city of Foley will be using the Department of Agriculture grant to purchase a machine to grade, wash, sort, and package the produce. Recent studies have shown that consumers prefer simplistic packaging. Larry Lovell, farmer and hub coordinator, told that school districts, restaurants, and grocery stores in the area were interested in carrying local produce, but lacked the ability to connect with the local farmers. The aggregation hub is expected to create between 25 and 30 jobs in the hub alone, as well as increasing the value of local farmland.

Back in Montgomery, the Farm to School program spent $1.3 million on Alabama-grown produce for public schools in the 2013-2014 school year. Alabama Farmers Market Authority Director Don Wambles told that the goal to increase access to locally grown produce will help farmers and children throughout Alabama.

“Alabama school children eating local, fresh fruits and vegetables grown right here in our state is a win-win situation.” He added. The Alabama State Department of Education has allocated $3 million to be used for the purchase of local produce, and will be allowing schools to use their own funding for additional produce as well. 

Wambles went on to say, “It is our goal for the Farm to School program to ultimately utilize the entire $3 million allocation, so we can provide the best and freshest food to the students of Alabama.”

With the two programs rolling out in 2015, Alabama farmers will be seeing a dramatic increase in demand for their products, which may lead to further jobs on the farms in the future, as well as an increased emphasis on healthy eating for the children.