Madison expands Farm-to-School food
MADISON – With expansion of Alabama’s Farm-to-School Food Initiative, Madison students are enjoying fresher foods, and local farmers are enjoying larger profits.
Madison City and Madison County Schools are founding members of the Farm Food Collaborative project with the Food Bank that connects local family farmers to buyers like schools and workplace cafeterias. Combined, Madison City and Madison County Schools served 44,000 pounds (22 tons) of locally grown apples to 30,000 students in recent weeks.
“This initiative is a win for local farmers and a win for Alabama children,” Kathryn Strickland with Food Bank of North Alabama said. On Nov. 2, Strickland and Farm-to-School director Don Wambles with Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries visited Columbia Elementary School to celebrate the initiative’s success.
Columbia students also met Will Scott, fifth-generation apple farmer with Scott’s Orchard in northern Madison County who grew the apples served in Columbia’s cafeteria. Scott’s Orchard has delivered apples to Madison and Madison County districts since August and now will be deliver statewide to school cafeterias.
“It feels great to know Alabama school kids are literally benefiting from the fruits of my family’s 114-year tradition,” Scott said.
Showing video footage of his farm, Scott answered questions how the 10 varieties of apples they grow, the five-year growth period for a tree to yield fruit and each tree’s eventual yield of 800 apples.
Madison schools benefit with “fresh high-quality, nutritious produce to students at a more affordable cost,” said Marty Tatara said. Tatara is Madison’s Child Nutrition Program Supervisor. She has found and ordered sweet potatoes, watermelon and tomatoes from local growers.
Farm-to-School involves the Food Bank, Alabama departments of education and agriculture and industries, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service and Alabama Farmers Federation.
Citing the decline in family farms and the rise in child obesity rates, the fresh-produce initiative “marks the beginning of a great turnaround story,” Strickland said.