This year Jenks Public Schools are seeing the fruits of the Farm-to-School Program.
Pat Meadows, director of child nutrition, says it was the right time to start the program.
“I think some of the kinks in the program have been worked out,” she says. “ So far it’s going well. We are trying to encourage better eating habits in our students and this is the best way to do it,” she says.
Meadows ordered 5,000 pounds of Sugar Creek Brand Seedless watermelons to add as a fruit serving on the tray line in the cafeterias of every school. The fresh, locally grown melons are sweet and juicy, she says. And the students love it.
“They are eating it as fast as we can put it out.”
Good flavor isn’t the only benefit of the program. Farm-to-School Program Administrator Chris Kirby visited Jenks in August with a presentation and cooking demonstration for the Jenks food service employees. She also provided posters that have maps of the Oklahoma farms as well as a picture of the farmer.
“They are making a personal connection between the students and the farmers,” says Meadows. Farm-to-school encourages school districts to purchase locally and regionally produced foods in order to improve child nutrition and strengthen local and regional farm economies.
She expects to receive a shipment of tomatoes before the program closes for winter on Oct. 27. She can order squash and other produce through the program but she chose to start with the watermelon and tomatoes for the first year. The tomatoes will be used on the sandwich bar and in tacos.
The Farm-to-School Program began in 2006, but there are only about 40 Oklahoma schools that participate.