Local Schools Win Promotion Contest
By JOHN LENTZ
Two Moore County Schools had big wins in a statewide contest designed to promote agricultural initiatives.
Crain's Creek Middle School and Aberdeen Elementary School finished second and third, respectively, for their in-school promotions of the North Carolina Farm-to-School program. School officials were notified last month of their accomplishments.
The program makes a variety of products that are locally grown on North Carolina farms available to school cafeterias in an effort to promote good eating habits while supporting local farming.
Strawberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and many other items are distributed to participating school districts.
According to one instructor, earning second place was both "exciting and a little disappointing" for the art and technology students at Crain's Creek Middle School.
"My art class and Corinne Walls' seventh-grade technology class created a video about local farmers bringing fresh vegetables and fruits to the school cafeteria, and how this benefits us all," said art teacher Mary Wright. "The students were really excited to win, and since we received second place for what we thought was a really great video, we are curious to see the first place winner."
Wright said her art students made posters that were hung in the cafeteria and in classrooms.
"We invited all students to sign the posters as a commitment to eat healthier," she said. "We thank the school cafeteria and local farmers for making this positive step toward better health for students and staff."
The classes received $150 for their second-place finish.
Deborah Hempstead's class at Aberdeen Elemen-tary School was the state's third-place winner.
The first in Moore County to have a school garden, her students participated in lessons about garden produce and held taste tests to sample what they'd grown. Hempstead's class received $100.
Heather Barnes, marketing specialist for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, said 85 school systems are part of the North Carolina Farm-to-School program.
"For 24 weeks each year, school nutritionists can choose a set number of locally grown fruits and vegetables that will be delivered from local farms to their school cafeterias," she said. "We will take care of the bidding and will make sure the farms qualify. The program is a great way to ensure healthy foods are available to students, all while keeping money in the state.
"Schools can join the program at any time during the year," she said. "We encourage all schools to take part in this exciting initiative."
This year marked the second time the contest was held.
"The distribution division works with child nutrition directors across the state to see what items of produce the school cafeterias can utilize," Barnes said. "The markets division works with the North Carolina commodity associations and individual farmers to harvest, pack and store the produce in climate-controlled facilities in order to maintain optimum quality and shelf life. The food distribution division then utilizes its fleet of tractor-trailers to pick up the produce and deliver it to the school systems.
"By buying produce directly from North Carolina farmers, the child-nutrition directors know the students are getting locally grown produce. The program has opened an additional market for the North Carolina farmers."
The N.C. Farm-to-School program is a cooperative effort of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Food Distribution and Marketing divisions.
Begun in 1997, the program is coming off a year with sales of more than $1 million and participation by a growing number of school districts statewide.
The first place winner in the contest was Castle Hayne Elementary School in New Hanover County.
Contact John Lentz at (910) 693-2479 or jlentz@the pilot.com.
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