Last updated: July 18. 2013 1:24PM - 101 Views
Fred Pace
Heartland News Service

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Two movements that have gained increased attention in recent years are starting to mesh in some Tri-State area schools.

One of the trends is an effort by schools to provide more nutritious meals, including more fresh ingredients. The motivation, of course, is to battle the rising tide of obesity across the country, particularly among youth. West Virginia, unfortunately, has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation.

The other is the growing interest in eating locally — in other words, buying food goods grown nearby. Part of the impetus for that again is more consumption of fresher foods, but there are other good reasons. Among them are providing more support to local farmers and the local economy, as well as reducing use of energy needed to ship foods across the country.

Several schools in the region are showing how those two developments can work together through their participation in the state’s Farm to School program. The main objective of the program is to connect schools and local farms with the hope of serving healthier meals in school cafeterias, providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities, and supporting local and regional farmers.

Recently, students at Leon Elementary School in Mason County were served a lunch consisting solely of items freshly harvested by local farms. “From the beef for the hamburger and the wheat ground into flour to bake the bun to the watermelon and peppers on the garden bar, all of it was raised or grown in Mason County,” said Principal Don Bower.

At Cabell Midland High School, students in Future Farmers of America and the vocational agriculture program continued their work helping to feed students in Cabell County. After planting and harvesting sweet potatoes in early spring, they planted corn in June. Recently, they began harvesting that corn, feeding four schools one day and providing cobbettes to all county schools later in the week.

Besides Mason and Cabell, six other counties are taking part in the Farm to School program. Other examples include Tucker County, which is using student-grown lettuce, and Fayette County, which is serving strawberries. …

But as more schools pursue the objectives laid out in the Farm to School program, local farmers will find that they have a sizable market to serve. And as more farmers produce more goods for schools, the cycle can perpetuate itself into a significant level.

That’s good for both the students and the farming community.

Distributed by The Associated Press

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