Friday, May 21, 2010

Farm to School Program Launced in Lexington!!!

A new push to put more locally produced food on the serving lines in school cafeterias across South Carolina made its debut this week.

The Farm-to-School pilot program – a joint effort of the Department of Education and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture – was announced at kick-off ceremonies at Walter P. Rawl & Sons farm on Fairview Road in Pelion. It coincided with Lexington County’s celebration of Farm to School Week, May 17-21.
The new program is a public-private partnership of produce growers, a local distributor and Lexington School Districts One, Two, Three and Four, plus District Five of Lexington and Richland counties. A total of 70 schools will be participating.
Farm-to-School enlists the cooperation of Lexington County growers including Rawl & Sons, Clayton Rawl Farms in Gilbert, Watsonia in Ridge Spring and Coosaw Farms in Fairfax. Senn Brothers, the local produce distributor, will be delivering fresh food directly from the farms to the schools.
Passage of the federal 2008 Farm Bill allows schools to use local preference in buying agricultural products, both locally grown and locally raised, according to Todd Bedenbaugh, the SDE’s Director of Health and Nutrition. He commended the school districts’ food service leaders – Pat Carter, Rion Skinner, Susan Cassels, Lora Beth Rucker and Ben Madden – for working with growers in the joint effort.
"Farm-to-School programs can improve nutrition and local economies," State Superintendent of Education Jim Rex said at today’s kick-off. "Agriculture has the potential for creating more jobs in the local and state economy.”
Rex and Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers also support the program’s aim to educate students about how agriculture is connected to food and nutrition. Children are encouraged to make healthier food choices by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.
“Healthier foods make healthier students. Starting with fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables in season, we can build stronger bodies and, at the same time, build stronger local economies,” Weathers said. “When the school food service buys local produce directly from growers through the local distributor, the entire community wins.”
Also on hand for today’s announcement were students from Pelion Elementary School, who harvested radishes at the Rawl farm as part of a school-based agricultural project. In addition, Bedenbaugh and Rex recognized four students who were winners in the Second Annual Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Drawing Contest sponsored by the Office of Health and Nutrition and the School Nutrition Association of South Carolina.
The contest, open to students in schools selected for the state’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, encouraged youngsters to create their vision of “the colorful fruits and vegetables that grace our great State of South Carolina” and to write a short message about what they learned through classroom discussions, research and planning to prepare their drawing entry.
Contest winners were:

1st Place – Trevon Gibson, Kingstree Elementary School, Williamsburg County
2nd Place – Kaitlin Lauren Touzeau, Albert R. Lewis Elementary School, Pickens County
3rd Place – Holly Clayton, Albert R. Lewis Elementary School
Honorable Mention – Constance Fitzpatrick, Elloree Elementary School, Orangeburg Three