Children need important nutrients to be strong and healthy as they grow and develop. The benefits of healthy eating include stable energy, strong bones and teeth, improved mental
health, making us think more clearly and more alert, preventing chronic disease and
maintaining a healthy weight. It is crucial to begin practicing healthy eating habits early on in a child’s life. One of the most important conversations to have with your child is the power of healthy eating. This is one of the reasons why the North Carolina Department of Agriculture began the NC Farm to School Program.
The NC Farm to School program started in 1997 as a way for school nutrition directors to purchase fresh North Carolina-grown produce for their school nutrition programs. At the time, many farmers in the state were transitioning from tobacco to produce, opening a market for these farmers. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services handles the procurement process, following the national and state rules for buying food items on behalf of schools. This takes the responsibility off the school nutrition directors’ shoulders, letting them focus on other aspects of their job. The program has expanded from its initial offering of strawberries and now offers multiple fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the year. It has also expanded to include value-added fruit and vegetable products. Last year we added North Carolina ground beef. The program continues to change to meet the needs of school nutrition programs. Now school children across the state have an opportunity to enjoy fresh, North Carolina-grown produce when it is in season. Hopefully, they will enjoy whatever they eat and encourage their families to buy locally. Farmers know that school children are our future. Exposing them to fresh, local products encourages them to support local farmers now or in the future by buying directly from the farm, farmers' market, or from a retail source that features local options.
The program is offered to all public school districts in the state. It is one option
for school nutrition programs looking to source NC-grown food for their program. Many districts
also source locally through their produce vendor or other sources.
Heather Barnes, North Carolina Agriculture Marketing Specialist practices what she preaches.
Barnes says, “As the mother of young sons, I want them to have to know where their food comes from. Featuring North Carolina grown foods in school nutrition programs is one way to expose them and their classmates to all the goodness grown in our state.”
Food Distribution coordinates the ordering of produce and handles the logistics of picking up
items from farms and delivering them to schools. Marketing works with farmers to fill orders and develops school promotional and educational materials. All public school districts in
North Carolina are encouraged to participate in the NC Farm to School Program. Crops offered
throughout the season include strawberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, apples, slicing and
grape tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbage, broccoli, apple slices, kale, collards, peaches, Asian
pears, romaine, honeydew melon, and blueberries. The program is offered for 22 weeks during the school year.
Farmers who are interested in selling to schools can visit the website How to Sell to Schools |
NC Farm to School. What a great opportunity for farmers and children! Investing in early
childhood nutrition has incredible returns for both.
Rebecca Jones is a contract writer for the Carteret News-Times and a Carteret Local Food Network blog writing team volunteer. She was born and raised in the Piedmont Triad area, where she spent most of her life. She has two grown children and 6 grandchildren. Writing has always been a part of her life; she believes it is a way to showcase and bring awareness to events that affect your community. In April of 2018, Rebecca and her husband George moved to Beaufort, NC. Her most recent two books, Love Brings You Home (about Hurricane Florence) and Go Deep (a devotional with photos), are sold locally and on Amazon.