In a sure sign of spring, students across Wake County Public Schools last week got their first taste of North Carolina strawberries for the season.
A fleet of box trucks arrived at a loading dock off Rock Quarry Road early Monday morning loaded with more than 6,000 pounds of berries.
Marilyn Moses, the senior director of Child Nutrition Services for the school system, stood in front of the warehouse surveying the haul and did some quick math.
The load of 800 flats of berries would be enough for more than 30,000 servings. And more berries are scheduled to arrive Monday morning, all through the “Farm to School” program run by the N.C. Agriculture Department.
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Moses said the program, which involves farmers throughout the state, is an essential way to get fresh, local produce to Wake schools students.
“There’s no one in Wake County who could have gotten me 800 flats today,” she said.
Moses said the local produce means far fewer nutrients are lost to time, temperature variations and storage abuse.
And it doesn’t hurt that the berries are a hit.
When students at A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh spot strawberries in the school cafeteria, they aren’t shy about registering their approval.
“There are literally cheers when they see strawberries on the line,” Tristan Winstead, Comb’s cafeteria manager said.
Winstead said he usually cuts up the berries and places them in cups, so that students can easily grab the right-sized portion and go.
“Kids love them,” he said. “They absolutely love them.”
The Farm to School program runs throughout the year and delivers local produce throughout the state, with about 10 percent dedicated to Wake schools. The deliveres vary depending on what is in season but can include blueberries, watermelon, apples, sweet potatoes and greens.
By the end of the year, the program is expected to provide 253,857 pounds or 1.1 million servings to Wake Schools, at a cost of $215,450.