Shelby County Schools Serving Fresh, Local Produce

Shelby County Schools Serving Fresh, Local Produce

The schools are working with Mid-South farmers to bring local produce into school cafeterias. The schools' food director says this isn't costing taxpayers any extra money; it's all federally funded.
MEMPHIS, TN (localmemphis.com) - Some of the freshest local fruits and veggies are on the menu for Memphis and Shelby County schoolchildren.

The schools are working with Mid-South farmers to bring local produce into school cafeterias. The schools' food director says this isn't costing taxpayers any extra money; it's all federally funded.

Students are growing some of the food themselves. Other crops are raised by local farmers just for your child's plate at school.

"Our menu structure and how we purchase locally makes a lot of sense," says Tony Geraci. "We are fully self-funded. We draw zero funds from the general budget. Everything we do we generate."

That includes some of the fruits and vegetables. More than 30 schools have gardens. The biggest is at Grahamwood Elementary.

"You can't get fresher or more nutritious than what's growing right here on the playground," says farm manager Lauren Bangasser. "Kids are part of that process, therefore they're eating more. Things like carrots, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, tomatoes."

Farmers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi grow blueberries, rice and other veggies for the schools.

"These smaller sweet potatoes they're growing are just about the right portion size," Geraci says. "He's got 30,000 pounds. We're going to buy all of those. We buy local because it's better."

The school system also plans to grow its own produce. Geraci's got a deal in the works with Shelby Farms for 50 acres of farm land.

"We're really excited. Mostly truck vegetables, squashes and nutrient dense greens. We can grow year round here."

"This Shelby County region happens to sit on richest delta country on the planet."

Next year all schools will serve an in-class breakfast and an after school supper. Parents will have the choice to opt-in on those.
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