Our team has been busy processing fresh lettuce from the auction for our Farm to School Program. We are excited to offer salad mix to the Fed-Hock Schools and provide healthy food to students while supporting local farmers.
We recently purchased processing equipment that enables us to cut, clean, and dry large quantities of lettuce. Traditionally our Farm to School program has only been able to offer frozen or canned goods to schools, such as frozen blueberries, corn cobettes, or tomato sauce. With the help of a grant, we are now able to offer fresh produce in the form of this salad mix.
Our team gathered at the Nelsonville ACEnet facility to pilot the process. Starting with an initial cleaning, we processed the lettuce by twisting off the end, cutting, and cleaning the lettuce again in a colander. Then we dried the lettuce in an industrial dryer before packing and weighing the salad mix. We ended up with 14 pounds of salad mix that we delivered to Amesville Elementary, Coolville Elementary, and the Stewart Campus. Students enjoyed the lettuce in their salad bar or as a side salad with spaghetti. Cafeteria staff were so pleased with the product that they requested more!
This initiative is part of our greater Farm to Institution program, which recognizes that schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals are major economic forces in our region. These institutions are also one of the largest consumers of food and providers of meals. By keeping the institution’s purchasing power in the community, students gain access to nutritious, high-quality, local food while also strengthening the local economy. Students also get the opportunity to learn more about their food, health, and nutrition.
We provide training and assistance to producers looking to access institutional markets and training for the institution’s employees on how to use local produce. Getting local salad mix into schools is just one way in which we are working to build a more sustainable local food system.
Hannah Bernstein is an intern with Rural Action‘s Sustainable Agriculture team. She is a senior at Athens High School and has been involved with Rural Action for four years.