This is the second year Mountain View has obtained a grant through the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program. The school gets $65,633, or about $78 per student, for this year’s produce.
North Carolina has been participating in the USDA program since 2004, said Zoe McKay-Tucker, child nutrition consultant for the State Board of Education. There are 17 states currently participating and there were 25 schools from across North Carolina chosen for this year’s program. North Carolina chose to include only elementary schools, and those interested submit proposals for a grant.
“Mountain View does a great job of providing fresh fruits and vegetables to students and their families,” said Brenda Walters, director of child nutrition for Ashe County Schools, noting that through this program, students not only get fresh produce at lunch and snacks but they can also take one serving home each day.
“The purpose is to improve healthy eating habits by providing fresh fruits and vegetables some of these children may not otherwise have,” Walters said. They get a wide variety of mostly domestically grown produce, with exceptions such as bananas and pineapple.
North Carolina has been receiving about $1 million annually since 2004 for this program, and there are about 100 applications per year. McKay-Tucker said hopes are that the program will be expanded. The current Farm Bill has a section noting plans to expand the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to every state in the country with each state and the District of Columbia entitled to a minimum grant of 1 percent of the funds made available to carry out the program in a given fiscal year. Additional funding to each state would be based on population.
“This program is absolutely wonderful. I can’t say enough about it,” said McKay-Tucker. “Congress will hopefully expand the program so more schools can apply and be accepted.”
A celebration of the USDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program was held on a recent parent night with students from Walters’ health in elementary education classes at Appalachian State University playing the parts of fruits and veggies. And a display from the Department of Defense Produce Merchandising offered students and parents a look at some of the more unusual fruits available for consumption.