By Lillian Bowe
PNT staff writer
More state-grown fruits and vegetables will be headed to school lunch rooms in the next school year under a bill passed by the state Legislature.
The New Mexico Grown Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for School Meals bill provides $240,000 in recurring funds to schools to buy such staples as apples, sweet and bell peppers, cantaloupe, cucumbers, honeydew, onions, tomatoes, watermelons and summer squash.
Last year, the state issued a grant for schools to received $591 to buy local produce for school meals since not all schools can afford to buy New Mexico-grown produce on its own.
New Mexico Farm to Table, a non-profit organization that promotes cooperation between New Mexico farmers and school across the state, helps schools connect to New Mexico farmers. The organization was vocal in getting the bill passed.
“We don’t have the basic connection with New Mexico farmers and Farm to Table is a really good resource for finding farmers to buy product from,” Paul Klein, director of student nutrition for Clovis Municipal Schools.
The farms Clovis has brought from have been from Deming and Farmington. They have bought apples, beans, zucchini, cherry tomatoes and potatoes from the New Mexico farmers.
Klein said that the money they got from the grant will not last too long with the number of students they have to provide meals for.
Dora schools Superintendent Steve Barron said Dora schools was one of the districts in the state to benefit from New Mexico produce. With the additional money, the school’s meal provider will look for state approved farmers to buy produce from.
Farmers approved by the state to sell produce to schools have to go through training and the farmers that work with Farm to Table get help in managing their farmers to better suit the demand of the schools.
New Mexico farmers cannot be in year-round production, so the farmers only sell to the schools during the spring and fall.
According to Farm to Table, 146,848 students were served New Mexico-grown produce from 2012 to 2013.