6.07.2012

Eating Healthy in N.C. Schools: The Farm to School Commitment

I packed my last school lunch yesterday.  My son is on the traditional calendar, and school is now out for the summer.

In full disclosure, I really didn’t pack as many school lunches as I originally planned.  I really had good intentions at the beginning of the school year to pack my son’s lunch, but he is more of a “hot-food” kind of guy and wanted to eat in the school cafeteria.  When he’s at school, he thinks he is eating in a restaurant, and this really should not be a surprise to me since this is the same child who would scream “restaurant” when he was 2 years old and I would take him home for lunch after preschool.

Lunchtime
Every day that he bought the school lunch, I would ask him what he ate. He would rave about his school lunch, and he would happily disclose all the fruits and vegetables he consumed at one sitting.  The school’s broccoli was one of his favorite sides, and he loved the peaches.

Meanwhile, my packed lunches came home with a lot of waste.  I will admit that I’m not really a domestic diva, so my lunches were pretty ordinary, but I still tried to pack a well-balanced healthy lunch.

If my packed lunches could talk.....

I volunteered weekly at his school.  The cafeteria managers would come into the teacher’s lounge where I was working, and I would ask, “So, what are you cooking today?”  When they responded with roasted chicken, roasted potatoes, broccoli, and farm-fresh peaches, I knew that I would choose that entrée over my own packed lunches, too.  I still packed his lunches when hot dogs or cheese nachos were on the menu, but he ate in the cafeteria more often than I packed during the week, and I was OK with that.

Here’s why.  In North Carolina, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of North Carolina (BCBSNC) has recently invested $1.2 million to expand the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Farm to School program to increase access to fresh, healthy food in cafeterias across the state. 


These trucks deliver fruits and vegetables to NC Schools. 

Since 1997, the North Carolina Farm to School program has been supplying cafeterias with locally grown produce.  Last year, almost 1.4 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables were served in N.C. school cafeterias. Not all school systems are participating yet, but the majority of the school systems are on board.  

This new BCBSNC grant will provide funding for five new refrigerated tractor-trailers to increase the distribution of local fruits and vegetables to 35 additional school systems statewide.  It will also increase the number of local farmers participating in the program from 75 to 105.  This means for the next school year, even more N.C.-grown produce will make its way into our schools.

In May, over $200,000 of North Carolina strawberries were purchased from local farmers to be served in school cafeterias during strawberry season.  For year-round schools, seedless watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, grape tomatoes, peaches, sprite melon, cucumbers, zucchini, sweet corn, and apple slices will be arriving the first of July.  This chart gives you an idea of what’s available locally all year.


I’m proud that my agriculture state is finding ways to help school-age children learn how to make healthy food choices and the importance of proper nutrition. 

My son also visited a North Carolina farm this year for a field trip, and had an entire lesson plan on the farm-to-table approach with foods.  With this initiative, I feel more comfortable sending my child to school without a packed lunch. I applaud the state and BCBSNC Foundation’s efforts of keeping our children healthy. 

Here’s the bad news for me. I learned that the school’s sautéed spinach is apparently better than my own. Perhaps I need a few cooking lessons!

Have a great weekend! We're looking forward to our summer break. 

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