Mississippi farmers could be the key to fighting childhood obesity in the state. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how a new program aims to put fresh, locally grown produce on the plates of Mississippi schoolchildren.

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Farm to School Aims to Fight Childhood Obesity

By Daniel Cherry | Published 30 Apr 2012 05:49pm | comments

Mississippi farmers could be the key to fighting childhood obesity in the state. MPB's Daniel Cherry reports how a new program aims to put fresh, locally grown produce on the plates of Mississippi schoolchildren.

"Sligar: Those orange things are sweet potatoes and the green things are collard greens.

Student: I love greens!

Sligar: You love greens. Good."

At Dawson Elementary School in Jackson, Food Corps service member, Alex Sligar, is talking with first graders about the fresh collards and sweet potatoes they're eating for lunch.

"Sligar: Mr. Teague the farmer, he got those in a truck and drove them over so that you guys could eat them."

Four schools in the Jackson Public School district are piloting a Farm to School program. The goal is to get Mississippi grown fruits and vegetables onto lunch trays. It's a national program, but Jackson Schools are some of the first in the state to give it a try. Beneta Burt is the Executive Director of the Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity Incorporated. She says getting healthy produce to children is often a battle.

"We recognize our young kids, particularly our city children, have really no idea about where food comes from, and that's why they're asking our farmers all these questions. You know, 'What's a vegetable?'"

Burt is pushing the Farm to School program as a way to instill healthy eating habits into young Mississippians in hopes of fighting the state's obesity epidemic. For small farmers like Daniel Teague there's a big opportunity. Schools are a steady market where they can sell their goods, and Teague says Mississippi farmers are ready to step up to the plate.

"We've got the know-how, we have some of the most fertile soil in the world in the Mississippi Delta. It's just so many untapped resources. It's a no-brainer. We should be feeding ourselves on local foods."

Supporters hope, if the four schools prove successfu in providing healthy local produce to children, the Farm to School program can be expanded throughout Mississippi.

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