ST. ALBANS, W.Va. – Schools in 30 of West Virginia’s 55 counties are now munching on locally grown food. The program is called Farm to School and counties are purchasing locally grown items to use on their breakfast and lunch menus.
Bekki Leigh is the coordinator of the Office of Child Nutrition, with the West Virginia Department of Education. She was on hand for lunch Wednesday at McKinley Middle School in St. Albans where a lot of the foods on the trays were sourced locally.
“On the garden bar they have lettuce that’s grown locally. They have Brussels sprouts, which were delicious. They have apples that are local, West Virginia products,” explained Leigh.
As many locally grown raw ingredients as schools can get, they are putting on student’s plates.
“That’s what we’re trying to show is that cycle of life from the ground to the consumer and how many people that impacts and the economic impact,” according to Leigh.
Last week at McKinley, the kids were eating corn grown in Greenbrier County by high school students. Wednesday that hamburger they were chomping down had a local ingredient.
“The wheat is grown in Preston County and was shipped to Brunetti’s outside of Huntington. They made the [hamburger] buns.”
Leigh said there’s a lot of benefits to eating local food. Take lettuce, for example. One day it’s in the ground on the farm, the next day on the school salad bar.
“That product has a longer life because it’s fresher. So [the food staff] is seeing a shelf life that is as much as five days more than what they’re getting off the truck,” Leigh said.
The cost of buying local is the same as purchasing through vendors where the food comes from out of state. That’s because the food is fresher, it lasts longer and doesn’t have to be thrown out as quickly.
Leigh said the goal is to get more counties on board with the project. She believes it can influence moms and dads to buy local if they see their kids eating sourced food at school.
For more information about the program, you can log on to www.farmtoschool.org.