Tomatoes make way to Harding

November 15, 2012
By Bonnie Hazen
Tribune Chronicle

WARREN – Students in Warren City Schools soon will enjoy salsa made from locally grown tomatoes.

Five bushels of tomatoes were delivered this week to Warren G. Harding High School.

Warren Schools Department of Food Service director Laureen Postlethwait poses with locally grown tomatoes delivered Tuesday at Warren G. Harding High School.

“We were really happy with what came today,” said Laureen Postlethwait, director of the Warren Schools Department of Food Service, explaining the aroma and vibrant color of the tomatoes was surprising for a November delivery.

The tomatoes were the last pickings of the field-grown tomatoes from Anguili’s Farm Market in Canfield. The produce was purchased from the Lake to River Food Cooperative, a member-owned cooperative comprising a local group of food producers, processors and institutional and commercial buyers, including a number of area farms, schools and businesses.

The cooperative was formed in 2011 and is supported in part by a $75,000 USDA grant. It offers a variety of foods, including fresh produce, meat, cheese, eggs and other products.

“Our goal is to keep food dollars in our community,” said Lake to River Food Cooperative produce manager Greg Bowman of Salem, who made the delivery.

Though this was the first delivery to Warren, he said the co-op has also served Austintown, Youngstown, Girard, Boardman, Springfield, Labrae and Badger schools.

The food co-op is helpful both to schools and farmers because it serves as an intermediary and helps provide fresh produce that is grown locally to schools while helping farmers wrap up the season after their stands close, said Melissa Miller, marketing manager for the Lake to River Food Cooperative.

The variety of produce offered by the co-op assists local schools in providing more nutritious ingredients in their school lunches, helping them comply with the stricter dietary guidelines initiated this year, Postlethwait said.

The federal meal program guidelines, signed into law by President Barack Obama as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, require schools to offer healthier food choices to students, such as lower-calorie and lower-fat foods.

“It’s a challenge to change the mindset of the students’ meal patterns,” Postlethwait said, adding that students have been very receptive to the fresh salads, and they recently made salsa from tomatoes grown at school.

The tomatoes delivered Tuesday were the first of three shipments to be delivered within the next two weeks, and will primarily be used for salsa in nacho and burrito lunches at the high school.

Postlethwait said apples also will be purchased from the co-op in the winter months.

Editor’s Note: The Lake-To-River Food Cooperative’s  (L2R) $75,000 grant was provided by the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) in the Farm Bill. The FMPP provides grants to community supported agriculture programs (CSAs), farmers’ markets, and farm markets to develop marketing information and business plans, support innovative market ideas, and educate consumers. L2R’s FMPP funding supports the group’s efforts to sell produce to 10 local school districts feeding nearly 14,000 school children and bring fresh food to low-income neighborhoods in Youngstown and Warren. Go to http://policy.oeffa.org/farmbill2012 to urge Congress to pass a 2012 Farm Bill that funds the FMPP and other important programs.

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