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Madison City Schools enjoys fresh, local food as part of the Farm Food Collaborative

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MADISON, Ala. - Alabama farmers and the Food Bank of North Alabama are working with Madison County's three school districts to provide fresh produce as part of the Farm Food Collaborative.

"It's nice to serve them a variety of fresh fruit," Child Nutrition Program worker Sue Allen said. "They're all very excited about it when we have fresh stuff."

Watermelon, grape tomatoes and apples are among the new additions to the four-year-old program used throughout Madison County.

"We started out and all we had were sweet potatoes," coordinator Marty Tatara said. "Haynes Farm in Cullman was one of the founding farmers."

The Farm to School Initiative keeps the students' bellies full of fresh produce; the effort keeps money in the district's budget.

"The State of Alabama has become involved through the USDA Commodity Program. So for instance, the grape tomatoes that we're serving today, which came out of Steele, Alabama were through the USDA Commodity Program," Tatara said. "The USDA reached out, bought locally grown produce to send to Alabama schools."

Madison City Schools, Huntsville City Schools and Madison County Schools also offer fresh food as part of the Farm to School Initiative. They work closely with the Food Bank of North Alabama, farmers, area chefs and Redstone Arsenal Food Service.