CHOCOWINITY, N.C. (WNCT) — Beaufort County Schools are celebrating this week after receiving a USDA grant to increase local foods in school cafeterias.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Grant Program is an initiative to improve relationships between local farmers and school cafeterias. The school system was selected out of 42 states to be granted the grant project in the U.S.
“This is an awesome opportunity for this part of North Carolina, and we’re excited on expanding and documenting our practices,” said Gwyn Roberson-McBride, Child Nutrition Director of Beaufort County Schools. “It’s very important that student are able to eat foods that they eat from home.”
The grant will be used for the renovation of the Beaufort County Schools Ed Tech Center kitchen to process locally grown foods into local food served.
Some of the goals Beaufort County Schools hope to improve will be to grow the school’s garden program, partner with state and local agencies and community members.
The Beaufort County Cooperative Extension Services, Southside Farms and the Summer Feeding Program, and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association are agencies looking to help school systems expand their farm-school relationships.
The Beaufort County Cooperative Extension Services will support and help expand school garden programs. Southside Farms is a certified farm in Beaufort County that will serve as the supplier of fresh local produce for Beaufort County Schools. The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association will expand technical support to farms seeking GAP certification to rise selling fresh produce to Beaufort County Schools.
The partnership is mutually beneficial for the school system and farmers like Shawn Harding, the owner of Southside farms.
“I think this is what as a community and as a people this is what the kind of thing we want to see our money spent on,” said Harding.
The summer feeding program will utilize the central kitchen to prepare summer meals for students and families during the summer months.
The grant will serve as an opportunity for kids to learn about healthy alternatives in an educational environment.
Back in 2015, the USDA Farm to School Census reported schools with a stronger farm to school program reported higher school meal participation, bigger rates of students trying fruits and vegetables, and rates of food waste dropped.