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Thursday, November 22, 2012 - 1:30am

USDA Funds Ga. Farm-To-School Programs

School kids across the state will be eating more locally grown fruits and vegetables thanks to a trio of federal grants, building on a trend that has been fed in part by the Obama administration’s 2010 school nutrition law.

In recent years more than a dozen Georgia school systems have started up farm-to-school programs. So far, they’ve replaced only a modest amount of the food schools normally serve with fresh local products.

But the objective is as much about education as anything else – to show kids that food is grown in the ground, by a person.

Daa'iyah Salaam with the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education said they’ll be using their new $100,000 USDA grant to expand the program they started last year in Dougherty County.

"We actually brought our farmers into the schools so that the children actually got a chance to meet, talk, and mingle with the farmers that were producing the produce that they later saw on their plates," Salaam said.

In Macon, Community Healthworks has gotten its own $100,000 to expand their Bibb County farm-to-school program into Peach County, while the Carrollton City Schools received about $30,000.

The money helps work out the logistical kinks inherent when a large institution like a school want to buy direct, instead of through a distributor.

"What we found in interviewing our school systems in this area is that many of our schools are surrounded by farmland. However they actually cannot get any local produce from the farm that’s next to them," Salaam said. "So with this grant we’ll be able to be the conduit for the farmers."

Salaam says her focus now is on getting winter crops into school cafeterias – she has a good source of butternut squash nearby.

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