Broadway High School students had a few extra options at lunch Friday — options that would be on the menu more often if it wasn’t for a hefty price tag and logistical shortcomings.
More than 2,000 pounds of sweet potatoes from Dayton-area Valley Farming LLC and about 1,500 pounds of local cabbage were part of an array of local, fresh options offered at all 23 county schools in celebration of Virginia Farm to School Week, which officially runs from Nov. 12-16.
Beef raised and slaughtered by Shenandoah County’s D&M Meats was part of the selection, as well as apples from Showalter’s Orchard in Timberville.
Del. Tony Wilt, R-Broadway, Rockingham County school board member Anthony Slater and Doug Alderfer, county assistant superintendent of administration, went through the local lunch line themselves.
The school system has been serving a variety of local options once or twice a year for nearly five years, according to Gerald Lehman, director of food and nutrition services.
Although most people are in strong support of serving more local items throughout the entire school year, the cost is just too much at this time, according to Lehman.
“When there are systems in place to accommodate using local items, and when they’re at a similar cost, it would make sense,” he said. “But there’s a lot of ‘ifs’ there.”
He explained that county schools have been serving Showalter’s apples for close to 20 years because the farm offers delivery at a reason-able price.
But problems arise with other food items, such as local beef. D&M Meats doesn’t deliver and the county doesn’t own a re-frigerated truck, Lehman said. For Friday’s meal, the county’s normal distributor delivered the beef but added a surcharge to the order.
It would definitely be worth it to pay extra for some local items, such as tomatoes and lettuce, Lehman said, but the logistics just aren’t in place yet to make it feasible.
“Cost is some of it, but it’s logistics more than anything,” he said. “The concept, certainly every-body’s in support of. I want to look at other areas to make it work.”
While many students chose to walk through the other line to get the usual options — pizza, fries and salad, for example — other students, such as 14-year-old ninth-graders Jordan Bowser and Anthony Meochor, said the local items were better.
And, according to Wilt, “That’s money going right back into the local economy.”
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