It didn’t matter how many times Brenda Buchholz drove past Our Little Farm on highway 30 in rural Nebraska. She always slowed to take in the colorful edible farmscape. She imagined what it might be like to serve the fresh tomatoes growing on those grounds to the 300 students at Overton Public Schools.
Brenda is the school system’s food service manager. So, a conversation later, farmers Ben and Judy Weston were planning unique varieties of fruits and vegetables they could bring to students’ plates at their local school.
Overton Public Schools is one of many schools across the country participating in the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). This program is dedicated to making healthier school snacks available to students. According to Sharon Davis, Assistant Director of Nutrition Services for the Nebraska Department of Education, “The FFVP is one of the most effective programs for getting students to try new and different fruits and vegetables.”
The program is targeted to elementary schools with the highest numbers of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals. According to Ms. Davis, “the numbers of free and reduced percentages are increasing in Nebraska, and there are not sufficient funds to benefit all the schools that are eligible.”
Unfortunately, Overton Public Schools will lose their funding for the FFVP next year. Those funds have brought local foods to Overton students during morning and afternoon snacks. The quantity of local food purchased will certainly be impacted. Ms. Buccholz is on the lookout. “We need funds for purchasing healthier foods.”
Our Little Farm in Lexington, Nebraska, is able to provide food year-round in their hoophouse. In June they will harvest their first batch of hydroponic strawberries. Providing farm fresh foods to their own kids as well as to the community is important to the Westons.
That’s why they go out of their way to connect with their community. They are planning future farm tours. They take samples of their unique homegrown produce like tigger melons, Armenian cucumbers, and blush tomatoes to the school where “the kids absolutely eat it up.”
Farm to School is opening doors for these unique farmer and school partnerships, and changing kids’ eating habits. National programs like the FFVP help food service managers make it happen.
You can find more information on the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program here.
Feature image: Ben and Judy Weston of Our Little Farm in Lexington, NE, are able to grow food year-round in their hoophouse. | Contributed photo
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