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Washington Co. schools to serve local produce

September 18, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Lunch provided at public schools could include an apple from as far away as Washington or fruit canned in Florida.

However, next week, Washington County Public Schools will offer meals that include fresh fruit and vegetables grown, for the most part, within 45 miles.

"It's designed to promote healthy eating and healthy diet," said Jeff Proulx, supervisor of Food and Nutrition Services for the school system.

He hopes to continue buying and serving locally grown produce beyond next week.

Washington County Public Schools is getting the locally grown food from Greensburg Farm Warehouse in Hagerstown, a wholesale distributor that works with a network of local farms.

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Washington County Homegrown School Lunch Week is derived from a Maryland Senate bill passed earlier this year that established the Jane Lawton Farm-to-School Program in the Department of Agriculture. The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday issued a proclamation declaring next week as Homegrown School Lunch Week.

Menus next week will substitute fresh, locally grown produce for items that might have been shipped over long distances or canned. For example, elementary school students on Monday will be offered "smashed red potato," which is a roasted red potato with onions that is oven-baked. Normally, students would be given hash browns, Proulx said.

Most items will come from within 45 miles of Washington County. That includes parts of Frederick and Montgomery counties in Maryland, and West Virginia and Pennsylvania, he said. One exception will be watermelons, which are being delivered from Maryland's Eastern Shore.

The apples, pears, peppers, tomatoes, squash and peaches students will be served next week were grown in Washington County.

Proulx said serving locally grown food offers many advantages, including a boost to the local economy. He said the quality also is better.

"That produce is on the vine longer and not transported for days on a truck," Proulx said.

The cost appears to be about the same as buying produce from other areas, he said, though all of the data has not been received. Proulx said that Homegrown School Lunch Week will include more fresh items than children usually receive. Most of the fruits and vegetables typically served are frozen or canned in light syrup.

"I want this to be the beginning of what we do as far as fresh product," Proulx said.

Schools spokesman Richard Wright said that Washington County Public Schools will be limited by geography in what it can purchase locally.

"When we can get it local, we'll make an effort to do so," Proulx said.

Bester and Boonsboro elementary schools will begin offering fresh fruit and vegetable snacks for all students. The schools were selected to participate in the federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Proulx said that Boonsboro might not be able to continue with this program because of the low number of students there who qualify for free and reduced-price meals.




What: Washington County Homegrown School Lunch Week

When: Sept. 22 to 26

Details: Students will be served fresh fruit and vegetables that, for the most part, were grown within 45 miles of Washington County.

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