Students are now enjoying North Carolina strawberries for lunch as the first shipment of berries hit the lunchrooms of schools participating in the Farm to School Program. The Alleghany County School System is among the systems that placed orders for strawberries.
Penny Walker, the school system’s child nutrition director, said that students are used to eating strawberries throughout the year in the form of canned or frozen berries, but fresh berries usually elicit a completely different reaction from students.
Walker was recently near the serving line at one school and said she could overhear the chatter about the berries as students made their way down the line. “You could hear them say, ‘They are serving strawberries today. Fresh strawberries, with green tops.’
“One little girl that came through the line, her eyes got huge and she said, ‘Ohhhh, strawberries!’ And she lifted both of her little hands up to take the cup of berries, like she wanted to be sure she didn’t drop them,” Walker said.
Walker said it makes her feel good that kids enjoy what is being offered.
“I try to offer different forms of food, and the students like having the canned and frozen varieties, but there’s nothing like fresh,” Walker said, adding kids and staff are also looking forward to blueberries, which is the next local commodity coming to schools.
Strawberries are by far the favorite produce offered through the Farm to School Program, and this year could set a new record for strawberry sales if all the school orders can be filled, said Gary Gay, director of the Food Distribution Division. This year school systems have ordered more than 20,000 flats of strawberries. The record for strawberry purchases totaled 19,473 flats during the 2012-2013 school year.
Weekly shipments will continued through May 18. Walker said the strawberries are so well liked, she placed orders for them every week they were offered.
“We have had a cold, cold winter in the mountains, and just to see those beautiful bright red strawberries, they represent hope that we are going to get into some warm weather now,” she said.