Wilton schools will serve more locally grown foods

Wilton Public Schools will soon serve more locally grown fruits and vegetables, thanks to the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables, in which Connecticut and seven other states have been chosen to participate.

“Connecticut’s participation in this federal pilot is great news for our farmers, our economy and our children,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said in a press release. “Our state is home to thousands of farming operations responsible for billions in economic activity.”

By increasing the number of locally sourced health food options for students, the governor said, “we help lay a foundation for lifelong successful habits.”

According to the governor's Dec. 17 press release, the program is designed to support schools’ pre-existing relationships with vendors, growers, produce wholesalers and distributors and increase the use of locally grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables in school meal programs.

Wilton was one of 15 Connecticut schools selected for the pilot program, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

USDA Foods are provided by the Department of Agriculture to schools nationwide and make up about 20% of the foods served in schools. With their USDA Foods allocation, states select items from a list of 180 products, ranging from fruits and vegetables to lean meats and whole-grain products.

The new pilot program will allow the states to use some of their USDA Foods allocation to purchase unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) Federal Foods program runs Connecticut’s program.

Brian Reynolds, director of Chartwells Food Service, which serves food in Wilton school cafeterias, will attend a meeting the second week of January during which DAS program director Linda Hubeny will explain what the pilot is all about.

Connecticut and the seven other states were selected for the program based on their “demonstrated commitment to farm-to-school efforts,” according to the press release, including:

  • Prior efforts to increase and promote farm-to-school programs in the state;
  • The quantity and variety of growers of local fruits and vegetables in the state on a per capita basis;
  • The degree to which the state contains a sufficient quantity of local educational agencies of various population sizes and geographic locations.

According to the governor, the program enables schools to increase their use of locally-grown, unprocessed fruits and vegetables from vendors authorized by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, but it does not require sourcing locally-grown foods.

In addition to Connecticut, the other states participating in the program are California, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.