Connecting Local Students to Local Food

Reported by: Logan McDougall
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Updated: 9/18/2012 10:46 pm
Head into many grocery stores and you'll find fruits and vegetables from across the United States and around the world. But, a Gate City school and farm are coming together to put locally grown food on student's lunch trays.

"Farm to school programs inherently are talking about connecting at the local level with local providers into really what is one of the largest restaurants there are, and that is the school lunch programs," said Anne Bopp, Principal at Grace Lutheran School.

From that idea, the Grace Lutheran School has turned it into a working relationship with Swore Farms on Ballard Road. Weekly, Anne contacts the farm to find out what extra produce they have on hand for the school.

"It’s wonderful working with farmers directly," Bopp said, "because we can have a lot of flexibility in what we offer the kids and yet still meet nutritional requirements."

"Anne will text me on a Sunday and say, 'So, what do you have extra," said Wendy Swore, Owner of Swore Farms. "Then we look around and we have a whole bunch of peas or beans that day. So, then we'll send those with them and know the kids are going to get food that's good and fresh and it was barely picked. And it goes the next day into what they eat for lunch; I don't think you can get healthier than that."

Swore Farms operates as a minimalist farm, which means they use as few non-organic methods as possible.

"We don't want to put anything extra in the food that we don't have to," Swore said.

Bopp says the program has yielded some unexpected results.

"We’re finding things that we assumed kids may not like and that they really like," said Bopp. "Tomatoes go quick at school, cucumbers, snap peas, all those things that kids are trying and they're taking and they're eating each day. So, we're excited to see more of a request for fruit and vegetables from our students because we're bringing more to them to be offered in our school lunch program."

Next week, Swore Farms is hosting Ag Days where roughly 1,000 fourth graders will make their way to the farm to learn about the farming life and where their food comes from.
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