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Mill Creek sweet potatoes symbolize district’s farm-to-school push

Madison Mayor Troy Trulock, at left, and Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler joined students for lunch at Mill Creek Elementary School for the Farm Food Collaborative's farm-to-school initiative. (RECORD PHOTO/NICK SELLERS)
Madison Mayor Troy Trulock, at left, and Madison City Schools Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler joined students for lunch at Mill Creek Elementary School for the Farm Food Collaborative’s farm-to-school initiative. (RECORD PHOTO/NICK SELLERS)

MADISON – Sweet potatoes took the spotlight at Mill Creek Elementary School on Sept. 18 in a multi-site launch of a food hub for Madison County’s three school districts.

The Farm Food Collaborative featured school meals with sweet potatoes that Cullman County farmer Clark Haynes grew. Cafeterias in Madison, Huntsville and Madison County schools served the vegetables to 44,600 students on 80 campuses.

Madison Mayor Troy Trulock and Superintendent Dr. Dee Fowler joined Mill Creek students for lunch.

The collaborative, North Alabama’s first local food hub, helps family farmers sell locally grown fruits and vegetables to schools, workplace cafeterias, distributors, restaurants and grocery stores.

To announce the initiative, an earlier press conference at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Huntsville featured Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan and local officials.

“It’s rare for child nutrition supervisors of three separate schools districts to work so closely together,” Huntsville Director of Child Nutrition Joseph Vaughn said about his work with Marty Tatara for Madison and Barbara Haugtvedt for Madison County. “We’re so proud to be a part of this unique farm-to-school journey.”

For Tatara, searching for and supply fresh produce to Madison cafeterias is not a new venture. In August 2013, Tatara increased vegetables grown at local farms, including sweet potatoes, as reported in The Madison Record.

“NASA chose the sweet potato as one of the crops for its Advanced Life Support Program,” Tatara said. The vegetable is easy to grow in different environments.

Madison cafeterias served students with cherry tomatoes and watermelon from Gadsden in 2013. “We’re doing this to enhance the nutritional quality of our meals and support Alabama farmers,” Tatara said in 2013.

This fall, Tatara plans to serve fruit from Scott’s Apple Orchard in Madison County.

The Farm Food Collaborative is a project of the Food Bank of North Alabama. Supporting organizations include The Boeing Company, Boeing Employees Community Fund, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, Appalachian Regional Commission, Walmart Foundation, Wallace Center, USDA, and Madison County Commission.

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