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Local produce served in school lunches

Program designed to teach students about where their food comes from

Program designed to teach students about where their food comes from

September 18, 2009|By JANET HEIM

HAGERSTOWN -- Corn on the cob, watermelon and other locally produced food items were on the menu this week in Washington County Public Schools and at schools across the state during the second annual Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week.

The bounty of local produce on school menus also featured Asian pears, apples, lettuce, green beans, broccoli and tomatoes. Menu items included vegetable-rice casserole, garden salad, turkey-vegetable wrap and roasted vegetable pizza, all featuring fresh produce. Local cheeses were served on burgers, in shrimp popper wraps, and on cheese and fruit plates.

The program was drawing rave reviews at Winter Street Elementary School where, on Tuesday, students feasted on cheeseburgers with lettuce and tomato, corn on the cob and watermelon.

"The kids are so excited when they see corn on the cob," food service worker Margie Shawyer said.

First-grader Amar Pinder, 6, said he eats corn on the cob at home and it's one of his favorite vegetables. He said he thought all the fresh produce on the school menu was "really cool".

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"Look at the bounty of this state and the four-state regions. It was such a great year for crops," Washington County Food Service Nutrition Program Supervisor Jeff Proulx said. "This corn was phenomenal. It was very sweet and tender."

Proulx said Winter Street is one of six county public schools that has fresh fruit and vegetable programs, with the intent of serving students healthier and less-processed foods. As a result, Proulx said, they have noticed that students at those six schools tend to be more receptive to trying new food items.

Second-grader Khia Black, 7, enjoyed the fresh corn.

"We eat it all the time at home," said Khia, who added that she also likes broccoli and pears.

Julie Gehr, site manager for Western Heights food service, said preparing fresh produce takes a lot of work, but it's worth it because she knows many of the students don't get fresh produce at home.

"This gets more fresh fruits and vegetables to the kids," Gehr said.

Produce, eggs and cheeses were provided by local growers, including Greensburg Farms Produce Co., Valley Orchards and Edgemont Orchards in Smithsburg, Kaleb Hess Farms of Shady Grove, Pa., Meadow Farms in Sharpsburg and Palmyra Farms of Hagerstown.

The Homegrown School Lunch Week, an element of the Jane Lawton Farm to School Program, was created during the 2008 session of the Maryland General Assembly.

The program is designed to help educate students about where their food comes from, how it is produced and the benefits of a healthy diet, as well as to expand markets for Maryland farmers, according to a press release from the Maryland Departments of Agriculture and Education.

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