POLK COUNTY — A new pilot program to allow school districts to work directly with local farmers won’t have much affect on Polk County schools, said Mike Vetter, nutritional director for Central School District.
“I will still do the exact same method that I’m already doing,” Vetter said.
Vetter, who also oversees nutritional services for Dallas and Falls City school districts, purchases fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers already.
“We’re using Riverwood Orchards for apples and pears,” he said. “We work directly with the farmer, who grows an orchard directly for us.”
Another local grape grower is working to get table grapes from his farm to school lunches, Vetter said.
The pilot program will allow school districts to spend their entitlement money — money from the federal government to support school lunch programs — on meats, fruits, vegetables or grains directly from the farmer or distributor, said Jenni Deaton, administrative specialist with the Oregon Department of Education.
“Many schools are procuring local fruits and vegetables when possible,” she said. “Much of this practice has to do with availability of items and their cost.”
The Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables was introduced by U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon as an amendment to the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill.
Oregon was one of eight states to be chosen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the pilot program, joining California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Virgina, Washington and Wisconsin.
Vetter said he will continue to use his entitlement money on “center of the plate” items, such as meats.
“I’m already using local farmers as much as possible,” he said.