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Students at Liberty will be offered fresh blueberries Friday as part of a pilot program

MADISON – Madison City Schools has been a leader in the growing Farm-To-School program in Alabama.

Apples, watermelons, oranges, cantaloupe, and melons have been among the locally-grown produce served in MCS lunchrooms since the initiative began several years ago.

The lunch menu this Friday at Liberty Middle School in Madison will feature fresh blueberries from the Bagwell Blueberry Farm in Cullman. The blueberries were picked locally over the summer by volunteers, led by a Liberty Middle teacher. But in a twist from other fresh fruit offerings, the blueberries were immediately frozen rather than served days from harvest.

The freeze-storage is part of a pilot project testing the practicality of picking, then freeze-storing produce to stretch their season of availability.

“One of the challenges of farm-to-school initiatives is being able to find ways to store the produce to serve beyond the growing season,” said Marty Tatara, coordinator of the Child Nutrition Program in Madison City Schools. “If schools and growers can find a way to manage that, markets can grow to make farm-to-school produce more economical and nutritious to serve over a longer period of time.”

The Farm Food Collaborative is a project of the Food Bank of North Alabama that serves as a local food hub to get locally grown fruits and vegetables into local schools.

The buy-local focus supports local farmers. It can also reduce nutrition depletion from long storage and shipping times.

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