From sweet corn husked straight out of the field to tomatoes fresh from the vine, students in the Wapakoneta City Schools this year are eating local produce as part of their lunches.
Already this year, students at Wapakoneta Middle School and Wapakoneta High School have enjoyed sweet corn grown in a field by an FFA student. Slices of tomato grown by other FFA students in a community garden also are making their way onto sandwiches.
“We’re already discussing what we can do next year,” Wapakoneta City Schools Food Service Supervisor Lori McKean said.
She said they established a partnership with Chris Turner’s FFA class at Wapakoneta High School and are continuing to work with him on ideas for the future.
“The kids really like this stuff,” McKean said of the fresh vegetables they are serving now. “They loved the corn.”
Tentative plans include more corn, cucumbers, peppers, and maybe even a field of watermelons. Another plan in the works is a green bean field, where FFA students would pick, clean and snap the beans that morning which they would be served at lunch.
Some of the produce has been donated while others the school is paying for, but at a cost that is still less than it would be to get it elsewhere.
While the in the summer growing season is for many fruits and vegetables, McKean said they are limited in some ways as to what they can use.
“Being a farming community it’s nice to take advantage of that,” McKean said.
Not only are students eating the produce but when they can the schools are getting it from youth growing it in the community.
The Ohio Department of Education also has been pushing farm to school programs to encourage districts to partner with local farmers and FFA programs to bring locally grown produce into the buildings for lunch.
“We’re trying to incorporate as much fresh and locally grown food into the school lunch plan as we can,” McKean said. “We’re developing a partnership of farm to school, which is benefitting us and is really good for the kids.”
Turner said for the FFA youth it gives them an opportunity to learn more about the growing process and gives them more opportunities.
He agreed it is part of a larger push for organizations and communities to grow local produce.
Turner said its definitely something on which they want to expand.
A grant helped fund the community garden which was established this spring.
FFA students said its teaching them to care for plants and about the time and patience required.