Sumter County residents may find it refreshing to know that students are consuming locally grown produce.
Stefan Price, Fort Valley State University's Bulloch County extension agent, connected Martha Harvey, Sumter County director of school nutrition, with the Coastal Georgia Small Farmers Co-op based in Glenville.
This connection is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's national Farm to School initiative, which connects schools with local farmers and producers to serve local produce in school cafeterias.
Since October kicks off Farm to School month, the coastal Georgia co-op will begin harvesting crops and processing orders for collard greens and peas for schools throughout the state. Through this program nearly 5,000 students in all seven of Sumter County's schools will receive fresh produce.
The nutrition directors and cafeteria managers are looking for healthier food choices for students, Price said. "They want a fresher alternative to what they normally get out of a can without all the additives and fillers," said the extension agent. "Fresher is better."
In addition to providing fresh, nutritious produce, Harvey said use of the co-op is saving money and helping students in the classroom.
"It helps the economy because you're not hauling food from across the United States, so its saves on gas" Harvey said. She also said nutritious meals help students focus.
"Some students may not get another nutritious meal until they come to school the next morning or until a Monday after a weekend," Harvey said. By providing fresh nutritious meals, the school nutrition director said students' minds become ready to learn.