Beaufort schools, local farmers serve up fresh greens to students
Island Packet (Hilton Head, SC), 2014-02-21
Feb. 21--Three years ago, a seed was planted. The Beaufort County School District made plans to work with local farmers to serve fresh fruits and vegetables to students at lunch.
This week that seed has finally bloomed.
Thursday at St. Helena Elementary School, students devoured collard greens grown less than a mile down the road at Barefoot Farms, one of 18 Lowcountry producers that will provide local fare through the "Farm to School" program.
"The new item on our menu and trays is the fresh local collard greens," St. Helena principal Nicole Holloman said. "It's just so exciting because we've had the canned variety for a while, but this is fresh and the kids and staff are really noticing the difference."
When schools began working with the Gullah Farmers Cooperative in 2011, no one realized it would take three years for the food to come to the table, according Roberta Peterson, the school district's food service manager.
The farmers -- from Beaufort, Colleton and Charleston counties -- had to work with the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to get the proper certifications, Peterson said.
They also had to get the required equipment to clean and process the vegetables, said Barefoot Farms owner Jacky Frazier.
"Growing greens we could already do -- we have that process down -- but we needed to get the equipment," said Frazier, who is known as "Barefoot." "We couldn't just chop them up and carry them down the road. It took a lot of money and time to get everything going."
Much of the funds for the equipment and to get the program running came from federal grants, Frazier said.
"There were a couple times we didn't know if we were going to get to this point," he added.
All involved seem glad they finally did.
Frazier said the schools provide local farmers another buyer for their products. And the students get fresh, healthy food, Peterson said.
The program began serving schools on St. Helena Island this week. It will expand to other northern Beaufort County schools in the coming weeks and to the rest of the county soon after, Peterson said.
The farmers also plan to expand the types of produce they provide to include broccoli, strawberries, tomatoes, cantaloupe and cucumbers.
But to start, the collard greens were a big hit with the elementary students.
Six-year-old Colby Coker gave them a 10 out 10... and two thumbs up. Jasmine Williams, also 6, said they tasted like her mother's greens and she wanted another helping.
Kindergarten student Yahaira Jefferson said she hopes they stay on the cafeteria menu.
"I really like them because they taste like leaves," said Jefferson, 5, "yummy leaves."
Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.
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