- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 6, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - Hawaii’s small local farmers sometimes have a hard time selling produce to the state’s large school district, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering funding to help qualifying schools buy locally grown produce.

The Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program is for schools that serve kindergarten to sixth grade where at least half the population qualifies for free or reduced lunch, West Hawaii Today reported Tuesday (https://bit.ly/1iUsKWG ). The schools can use the produce for morning and afternoon snacks.

“It’s a way for our local farmers to enter the school program at a very practical level,” said Nancy Redfeather, program director of Hawaii Island School Garden Network.

About 80 Hawaii schools are already participating, and 32 of those are on the Big Island.

Glenna Owens, director of the Hawaii Department of Education’s School Food Services Branch, will meet with farmers on the Big Island next week to explain the program.

Owens has expressed a desire for producers of unusual fruits, particularly fruits that aren’t apples, oranges or bananas, to participate, Redfeather said.

“She’s really interested in the kids tasting things they won’t taste at home,” Redfeather said.

People often say that children don’t like to try new foods, but that’s not the case, Redfeather said. She recently brought several bags of jaboticaba, a grape-like fruit that she plucked from her own trees, to a local elementary school. Nearly all of the students were happy to try the fruit, she said.

Hawaii Island farmers grow fragile fruits that can’t easily be transported off island or sold in large amounts, but those farmers could be a good fit for the program.

Farmers in the program work with participating distributors who sell the produce to schools, although some charter schools can purchase directly from the farmers.


Information from: West Hawaii Today, https://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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