Farm-to-School Working in Perry County

With the school year underway, a growing number of students in Central Appalachian schools are getting a taste of locally-grown, farm-fresh fruits and vegetables on their lunch trays. Farm-to-School programs, which connect local farmers to local schools, are growing in popularity around the country and here in Appalachia. It's easy to see why: kids get access to fresh, healthy foods; farmers get some extra income; and teachers have an opportunity for a real-world teaching tool.

Perry County Central High School, in Hazard, KY is one such school that is seeing the rewards of a Farm-to-School program. A recent article in the Hazard Herald explains:

“The Farm to School Program is a partnership between Owsley County FFA and my, (Perry County), FFA,” said Ralph Combs, the Agriculture teacher at Perry Central High School.

About once or twice per week the students of Combs’s class take pallets of fruits and vegetables off to the cafeteria kitchen where the food is prepared and served to the students. All of the produce is grown in the region.

The aim of the program is to serve farm fresh Kentucky grown fruits and vegetables in the lunch line. Students with Perry County’s FFA go through all of the produce and discard any rotten or bad product so that the schools only receive quality goods.

…The program also involves the students in Combs’s Agriculture class because the students learn about different factors that affect crops and production in Eastern Kentucky.

As local foods remains a hot topic and small farms are seeing a revival, connecting young people to where their food comes from and teaching them some of the ins and outs of farming can open eyes and doors to a different economic opportunity – one they don't have to leave their homeplaces for.