FAMU Cooperative Extension, in collaboration with the New North Florida Cooperative, has been working to cultivate schools as a local market for small farmers since 1995 through the Small Farm to School Program.
Amid the COVID-19 disruptions, schools are out and school meals are the only source of food for many children. Schools and small farmers are making efforts to get food to students.
Ida Daniels, food director for Hamilton County School District, is continuing her efforts with the New North Florida Cooperative to procure fresh produce for school meals.
The Hamilton County Child Nutrition Program has participated in Farm to School for over three years now. Her meal options for school lunches have incorporated fresh fruit and vegetables produced by local small farmers participating with the New North Florida Cooperative.
Since schools are out due to COVID-19, this innovative food director is testing how she can maximize her meal deliveries while limiting her workers time in the cafeteria preparing the meals. Her staff is preparing four to five meals that can be delivered at one time. The New North Florida Cooperative delivered 24,000 snack packs including apples, pears, mangoes, carrots, cucumbers, seedless grapes and plums for her two schools.
The Small Farm to School program is a public-private partnership between FAMU Cooperative Extension and the New North Florida Cooperative Association, a small farmers group in Marianna, Fla.
Over the past two decades, this Farm to School Program links small farmers with local school districts to supply fresh local products for the child nutrition program.
Glyen Holmes, executive director, works directly with the schools and farmers in marketing, production and processing, packaging and distribution of fresh local produce.
FAMU Cooperative Extension provides the educational support for farmers in production, post-harvest handling, profitability, and for schools in pricing, menu planning and servings calculations. This effort has also been supported by resources from the Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services.