SOUTHEASTERN NC (WECT) – Believe it or not, salads are pretty popular lunch items in one local elementary school cafeteria.
In fact, during a recent lunch-hour rush, cafeteria workers at Edgewood Elementary School in Whiteville were making extras to keep up with the demand.
It's part of the district's emphasis on health eating.
"The fresher, the more nutrient rich, the better for the children's bodies," said Kathryn Faulk, child nutrition services director for Whiteville City Schools.
The district not only tries to serve more fruits and vegetables – they're also focused on buying from local sources.
"I would say 99 percent of the sweet potatoes that we buy, the fresh sweet potatoes that we buy, are grown in Columbus County," said Faulk.
More than 60 percent of North Carolina's school districts participate in so-called "Farm to School" activities, including buying food from local sources and planting vegetable gardens, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Whiteville City schools purchase produce from Honeycutt Produce, a distributor based in Chadbourn.
Owner Phil Honeycutt says school orders have evolved.
"They use a lot more fresh fruits and vegetables than they did, say 20 years ago," Honeycutt said. "They're more health conscious."
The distributor tries to send schools as much local produce as possible, but of course, some fruits and vegetable aren't grown here.
"But the things that are, we buy a lot from North Carolina, such as bell peppers, cucumbers, cabbage," Honeycutt said.
He explained increased food-safety precautions create challenges in buying food from some local farmers.
"We have to deal with farmers who are willing to step up to the plate and go along with the rules and regulation that we have to abide [with]," Honeycutt said. "We can't just pick [the produce] up anywhere anytime and deliver it. Those days are over."
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