Food Distribution Division is set to deliver over $3.6 million in locally sourced foods to North Carolina schools – a record for the program. This Farm to School effort has not only benefitted North Carolina producers but also the school children who enjoy the freshest foods available.

by | Apr 22, 2024

Summary: North Carolina farmers have been able to supply over $3.6 million worth of food products to schools across the state, which is a new record for the N.C. Farm to School program. Schools have increased their purchases of North Carolina products thanks to USDA funding through the Local Food for Schools Cooperative. In addition to fresh produce, school systems have also purchased locally raised beef and rice for school meals.

Today’s Topic with Southern Farm Network’s Mike Davis 

  • The 2023-2024 school year is going to be a record one for the N.C. Farm to School program when it comes to farm sales.
  • Our Food Distribution Division is on tap to deliver over $3.6 million in North Carolina fruits, vegetables, beef and rice from local producers to 108 participating school systems.
  • The Farm to School program got a boost this year from more than $5.6 million in USDA funding that the department was able to secure through a grant.
  • Schools can use these funds to buy local and minimally processed foods.
  • Around half of the funds have been spent on direct purchases from local suppliers and the other half has come through the Farm to School program, which many school systems are familiar with and have participated in over the years.
  • So, while the Farm to School program is seeing a record year, additional growers are also benefitting from the opportunity to sell their products to local schools.
  • I consider this a win-win-win for the kids, for the school systems and for farmers.
  • You simply cannot get fresher produce than by buying local, and that is a difference you can taste.
  • And, it help reinforce the connection for kids between the farmer and farms and the food they enjoy.
  • It is important they understand food does not get its start at the grocery store but is the result of the hard work of a farmer.
  • PLUS, we all win by supporting local farms and helping strengthen them financially. We want them to be successful so we can continue to have access to local products now and in the future.
  • We saw how important local producers were during the pandemic with supply chain disruptions.
  • We are continuing to work hard within the state to increase the capacity and economic viability of local processors and producers by increasing processing capacity and attracting more food manufacturing facilities.
  • It is exciting that ground beef and rice have been two new items that schools have been able to purchase and serve. I am told that both have been well received by school kids and the school nutrition directors.
  • Right now, we are taking orders for North Carolina strawberries, which are coming into season. To date, we have orders from schools for nearly 6,000 flats of strawberries.
  • Strawberries are always one of the most popular offerings we have, which I am happy to hear because they are also a favorite for me. Especially if they are served as part of strawberry shortcake!
  • As Agriculture Commissioner, I am proud of our Farm to School program and the market opportunities it creates for farmers.
  • And as a grandfather, I am proud that my grandkids, like other school children, can enjoy local fruits, vegetables, meats and rice products through the department’s efforts.