Posted Mar 19, 2011
Fresher is better, says Tina Ward, Brunswick County Schools director of child nutrition.
But fresh, local vegetables and fruits can be hard to come by for the district, she said, especially when many farmers in the area don’t meet certain federal requirements to do business with the schools.
That all could change with the statewide 10% Campaign, a buy-local food initiative aimed at building local farming and fishing industries, that kicks off in Brunswick and New Hanover counties at 4 p.m. Tuesday at UNCW’s Madeline Suite.
The campaign will help train farmers in how to find local business opportunities and educate consumers on the benefits of local foods, said Leslie Hossfeld, co-founder of Feast DownEast. The campaign is being made possible by Feast DownEast and other local food agencies to encourage government entities to buy 10 percent locally, according to a press release from UNCW.
“It’s about consumer awareness, and teaching individuals, and all associated, the benefits of eating local. We also want to show the ripple effect that it has in helping the local economy,” Hossfeld said.
Ward said she isn’t sure how the initiative will impact local schools, but more qualified suppliers of produce to schools is a good thing.
“You cant beat the nutritional value of fresh,” Ward said. “The sooner it gets from harvest to the table, the better.”
The biggest obstacle for school districts is finding farmers who are certified in Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP certified. Only farmers who are certified can supply food to the school systems, and the selection of fresh produce sometimes doesn’t meet the demand of the hundreds of mouths schools feed each day, Ward said.
She said Brunswick schools provide a selection of state-offered local produce, and the district at one time was able to provide select produce from a local GAP-certified farm.
“When we were buying from the farm, they couldn’t produce enough for all schools, so we would rotate the produce between the schools, three school at a time,” she said.
For now, local produce is an enhancement, not the norm.
“The thing is, right now there isn’t enough, but maybe down the road,” she said.
Hossfeld said that’s where the campaign comes into play.
Hossfeld said one of the missions of the campaign is helping farmers learn how to bid for school business. School districts have to give food contracts to the lowest bidder.
She added if more money is being kept within the state and counties, it helps the students in the schools.
“This will serve the children of people who are farmers in the community,” she said. “It keeps things in the community.”
Ward said she would be attending the kick-off of the campaign. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and other area officials also are expected, according to the release.
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