Madison’s ‘Farm to School’ Program Boosts Nutrition and Local Economy

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MADISON, Ala.  (WHNT) - Students in Madison are getting extra tasty veggies in their cafeteria, thanks to the efforts of local farmers.

It's a new "Farm to School" program to boost child nutrition and the local economy.

For example, students at Liberty Middle School got a sweet treat in their lunches Tuesday: sweet potato wedges.

WHNT NEWS 19 asked 8th grader Tyler Smart if he liked them.  "Yes, Ma'am," he said.

The potatoes were grown on Haynes Farm in Cullman and apparently taste better than veggies from out of state.

"Tastes better than what we usually have here," said Camryn Moore, another 8th grader.

This is just the beginning of Madison's new Farm to School program.

The district's Child Nutrition Program Supervisor, Marty Tatara, is turning to Alabama farmers to give students healthy food choices.

"What we want to do is to provide higher quality of nutrition and more fresh food to our students," she said.  "And we also want to support the local farmer and by doing that keep our local dollar circulating in our local economy."

Tatara said in the coming weeks, students will enjoy tomatoes from Gadsden and watermelon from Cullman.  She's considering going to other farms in Alabama for more fruits and veggies if they can accommodate her tall order.

"They have to be a large enough farm that they can meet our needs," said Tatara.  "Eleven schools with 5,500 meals a day."

She added extra incentive comes from the fact that local farmers discount their produce for the schools.

Tatara is gathering data to determine just how much money and calories this new program saves.

She also offered her gratitude to the Food Bank of North Alabama for its help in transporting the produce from the fields to the schools.

Students say they'd like to see locally grown corn, apples, and grapes on their lunch menus in the future.