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School District has a shot to improve lunchroom offerings

5 mins read

By Bill Rauch

Here’s an opportunity to beat swords into plowshares.

Beaufort County is in the final stages of preparing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the 80-acre tract on Washington Farm Road in the Lobeco area of northern Beaufort County that the government bought under its Rural and Critical Lands program. Respondents will be asked, according to the draft documents, to propose non-profit agricultural or equestrian uses that provide educational opportunities. 

This is the property that the county purchased in December 2014 with the idea that it would serve as a gun park — a notion neighbors beat back after it was shown that all three schools in the Whale Branch cluster were within .30-06 range. The land was acquired from Duncan Farms, who for many years truck farmed there.

The Beaufort County School District doesn’t know it yet, but the RFP presents to them a unique opportunity — but they will need to read up on the Farm to Schools movement that is sweeping the country.

Those of us who want to see young people everywhere eat better, slim down, get unplugged, and get outdoors long enough to get some vitamin D from the sun hope the district’s leadership will get up to speed on this, and get excited enough about the opportunity to put in a proposal.

Spartanburg District 6 owns Cragmoor Farm, where student-grown and operated organic produce is trucked back to the district’s four elementary, one middle and one high school for use in their cafeterias. The district also operates a farmers market where the public can purchase the fruits and vegetables the students help raise. 

“Our students are actively involved in the growing process from germinating seeds in the greenhouse, transplanting the seedlings into the gardens, and to harvesting the fruits and vegetables,” the district’s website says.

Dorchester District 2’s Ashley Ridge High School and their adjacent seven-acre Fox Ridge Farm were recently awarded a $72,540 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant to improve and expand the farm. The district’s Fox Box program provides stipends to students who help with the farm over the summer. The school also partners with nearby privately-owned Tiger Corner Farm to help raise the hydroponic vegetables that are used in the district’s 24 cafeterias.

District 5 of the Lexington and Richland Counties School District recently implemented its Farm to Five Program that “expands local food offerings in schools, provides school gardening and experiential learning opportunities, and promotes health and wellness,” its website says.

There’s too much Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD, a non-clinical term) around. Some children adapt well to the highly-stimulated, high-pressure, indoor, screen-oriented environment that is prevalent today, child psychologists like Last Child in the Woods author Richard Louv say. But others react, he and others say, to NDD by developing attention problems, obesity, anxiety, depression and feelings of loneliness.

The district should take a close look at the Spartanburg 6 example in particular. That program receives funds from the State Department of Agriculture, the USDA Farm to School Grant Program, The Healthy School Initiative Program, and The Mary Black Foundation. The Newman’s Own Foundation and other philanthropic organizations are also supportive of programs like these that provide nutrition and nutritional education to young people.

Who’s to say helping a row of seedlings take root in a greenhouse, or tending some tomato plants in a garden, or helping a peach tree bear fruit, or getting out into the Lobeco sunshine to pick a row of corn might not be a lifeline for some? Certainly getting local fresh fruits and vegetables in the cafeteria would be a plus for everyone.

Bill Rauch was the mayor of Beaufort from 1999-2008. Email Bill at TheRauchReport@gmail.com.

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