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Program Post: Getting Local Food Into Schools and Institutions

Local Lettuce

Each Thursday, our programs take you behind the scenes of their work. This week, our Growing Minds Farm to School Program talks about how they work within existing food systems and procedures to help schools and institutions make the switch to fresh local food!

From ASAP’s Growing Minds Farm to School Program

Part of Growing Minds’ mission is to get more fresh local food into schools and institutions. As you can imagine, that’s not always easy given that change doesn’t happen overnight—even if everyone along the chain wants it to. One way to make it easier to make the switch to local food, we’ve discovered, is to work within the food systems and procedures already in place at these schools and institutions.

Local Produce DistributorCase in point: working with existing food distributors. WNC is home to many small produce distributors. These distributors have the knowledge, equipment, training, and capacity to get produce from local farms safely to their destinations. Schools already purchase their produce from these produce distributors. So, why not help connect them to local farmers rather than create a new distribution system? Once there’s local product in the distribution system, there’s the potential to provide local food to area restaurants, hospitals, schools, preschools…endless possibilities!

On April 9, ASAP is hosting a gathering at Yesterday’s Spaces, a working 70-acre family farm. We’re inviting all the K-12 Child Nutrition Directors (CNDs) in our Appalachian Grown region, as well as food service directors from area hospitals, preschools, and colleges. AND, we’re inviting area produce distributors. CNDs have told us (and shown us!) that they have interest in buying food from local farms. Area distributors are increasingly connecting with local farmers. Now we’re bringing these two critical partners together so we can figure this out. April is the perfect time, as that’s when the CNDs are putting out their bids. A local CND has even shared that she’ll join us and hold on to her bid until after the event.

So, over local BBQ from Luella’s (pork from Hickory Nut Gap Farm) and in the lovely setting of a family farm, we’re all going to work together to meet our missions. Can’t you just hear the conversation: [Distributor] “You’re interested in getting more food from local farms on your school menus? Well, I can help you with that!” [Child Nutrition Director] “If you can get food from local farms for my children, then I might be interested in letting you bid for all my produce needs.” Music to our ears, eh?

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