CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – To address the growing problem of child obesity in the state, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation has invested $1.2 million to get more produce from North Carolina farmers to school systems.
The grant, which supports the Farm to School program at the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, provides funding for five new refrigerated tractor-trailers, increasing the distribution of local fruits and vegetables to 35 additional school systems.
“This expansion of the Farm to School program provides even more students with healthy, North Carolina-grown options, nutrition education and helps children connect their food to the farms where it grows, which are all important steps in preventing and reducing obesity,” says Kathy Higgins, BCBSNC Foundation president. “Our state’s child nutrition services focus on health and quality for our students and local, fresh food is an important component.”
In addition to the tractor-trailers, the grant supports a three-year Farm to School marketing initiative to teach children about what is being served in their school cafeteria, where it is grown, how to make healthy food choices and the importance of a healthy diet, as well as raise the profile of the Farm to School program among school systems across the state.
Because one in three children in North Carolina are obese or at risk of becoming obese, access to healthy food and the education to make smart choices are more important than ever, officials say.
“North Carolina school children are not the only beneficiaries from the expansion of the Farm to School program,” says Steve Troxler, state Commissioner of Agriculture. “Local farmers also benefit by serving the increasing number of schools receiving farm-fresh food.”
NC Farm to School has been supplying North Carolina school cafeterias with locally grown produce since 1997.
Last year, the program served over 900,000 students, providing nearly 1.4 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables.