10/27/13 — County's fresh produce not directly local

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County's fresh produce not directly local

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 27, 2013 1:50 AM

Wayne County may be agriculturally rich and have the potential to provide the school district with easy access to locally grown produce, but hurdles and federal guidelines present a challenge when it comes to the child nutrition program for schools.

Ken Derksen, director of communication services for Wayne County Public Schools, said Friday that some of the district's food distributors may pull from local produce growers, but at this point there isn't much in the way of a direct farm-to-school pipeline.

"All of our schools provide fresh produce for the lunch menus which include fruits or vegetables," he said. "All of our fresh produce comes from R&H Produce, which is located at the farmer's market in Raleigh."

Derksen said it would be difficult to track which farms the produce originated from, as R&H receives shipments from a variety of areas.

Meanwhile, one area charter school has its own garden right on school grounds.

Dillard Academy's garden has been there since the school opened, Principal Brian Smith said.

"They actually found it that way in 1998, the same time we started the school," he said.

He agreed that federal guidelines make it tricky to serve the produce harvested on-site, but said that efforts are being made to become "certified organic."

"We don't use pesticides," he said. "If they ever do that (certification), perhaps we can use it inside for our lunch menus."

One way they have gotten around some of the constraints, though, is through the after-school program.

"We do snacks so we actually include the food into our daily things," Smith said. "We also do it for, like, let's say we have a needy family. They can go out there and get something, so it's supplemental to our food pantry."