Leahy announces boost for farm-to-school

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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) Senator Patrick Leahy and other Vermont officials observed National Farm- to-School Month by traveling to Franklin County and announcing additional funding for the program.

Many students at the St. Albans Town Educational Center enjoy their lunch with local produce. "They are usually pretty fresh," said Maria Oprea, a 7th grader.

"And I really do like my food fresh," added 7th grader Nelson Labombard.

That's a message Senator Leahy says he likes to hear. "A poor nutrition vs. a good nutrition -- it's a lifelong impact," he said.

Leahy Thursday announced two federal grants to bring more local food to Vermont schools, and he's making a bigger call to action. "I want them to do it all over the country," he said.

The $300,000 in grants will focus on farm-to-school producers in Franklin, Grand Isle, Caledonia and Orange counties.

"When we bring people closer to the land and our animals, Vermont is a better place," Vermont Agriculture Secretary Anson Tebbetts.

St. Albans students also have their own gardens, a kitchen to cook the food in themselves and local products served in the cafeteria. "Really, they are now understanding what we are serving in a whole new way," said Nina Hanson, the district's food service director. She says fresh, local food makes it on every tray. "We have a requirement from USDA that every student has to, must take a fruit or vegetable whether they want to try it or not."

Some kids like 7th grader Chris Mayka are on the fence. "I don't know, I just don't like vegetables that much," he said.

"I really like the fruit, and when they serve chicken patties," said Octavia Long.

Hanson says uneaten food gets composted, but having kids active in the growing process helps. "By and large I think it has reduced waste a lot as kids are involved in the food," she said.

"It's fresh from the garden, and I know that because we have the evidence right in front of us," Labombard said.

"It makes me want to have more veggies, 'cause if you have wilted lettuce you probably want to go to the pizza more," Oprea said.

Money from Washington planting the seed for young Vermonters to start a healthy life.