Opinion: Farm To School Solution Makes Sense

 

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When recalling fond school day memories, I think you’d be hard pressed to find any that revolve around delicious cafeteria food. In fact, most lunch room flashbacks are mired in how bad the food was — unless you were into see-through pizza, or “mystery meat” conspicuously served at the end of the week. From the olden days to modern day, the school cafeteria continues to have a bad rap. Luckily for our future generations, there is movement afoot to change that.

When Florida Grower sat down last year with State Ag commissioner Adam Putnam for the August 2011 cover story, we learned how much effort was going toward the Department taking over the school lunch program. Talk about a no-brainer. The infusion of more Fresh From Florida food in the school lunchroom would be a great addition.

Since this initiative was introduced, we have reported on what’s to be a win-win situation for not only school children who will be able to consume a wider variety of fresh home-grown food, but also growers who will be needed to supply the high demand. Among the nation’s largest school districts by enrollment, Florida accounts for nearly half of the top 11, including Dade(4), Broward(6), Hillsborough(8), Orange(10), and Palm Beach(11). That adds up to a mountain of meals served day in and day out at our local schools.

Class Is In Session

Though the state Department of Ag officially took over the school meal program from the Department of Education in January, the learning curve for all involved was just beginning. Despite the appeal of the feel-good concept, getting growers to buy into the program has not been as easy as you would think it would be. Educating producers so they understand the process is a key next step. Last month, FDACS hosted a webinar designed to inform producers about the state’s Farm to School program opportunity. The turnout was encouraging. In this month’s cover story, we delve deeper on the what, why, and — most importantly — how-to of the program. Click here to start studying up.

State Of Mind

Buying local goes a long way to boost the spirits of a community. There is a positive perception that accompanies this behavior. The feeling can become contagious, too. It’s a sad dose of reality to realize how much the U.S. has become a consumer rather than a producer. Thankfully, it’s not like this in all business sectors. The U.S., and Florida in particular, maintain a leadership role in global agriculture. However, this economic driver needs continued support and participation in order to hold its spot in line. Having today’s school children not only gain an appreciation from where their food comes from, but also eat it and ask for more are good ways to ensure that job is not outsourced.