On Friday, locally grown blueberries were introduced to students in Madison for the first time as part of a farm-to-school program. The blueberries were a hit with the kids at Liberty Middle School, where students ate several hundred blueberry treats, prepared by volunteers and school staff.
“What’s so interesting about this is that it’s a locally grown product we’ve never offered to a school district before,” said Natalie Bishnoi, co-manager of the Farm Food Collaborative Program, which is a local food hub housed at the Food Bank of North Alabama. “Blueberries are grown and harvested during the summertime, which falls outside of the school year.”
The blueberries were picked over the summer and then frozen to extend the season. At lunch time on Friday, students enjoyed the locally grown blueberries, which came from Bagwell Farms in Cullman.
“The goal of it all is to increase the amount of locally grown foods into school lunches so that everyone has access to the freshest, most nutritious foods that they can have,” said Bishnoi.
Volunteers helped pick the blueberries. One of them is a teacher at Liberty.
“It was really great, and as soon as I told them I picked blueberries, to see their faces — they were like — what you picked blueberries? I said, yeah, they come off the bushes,” said Jane Haithcock, who teaches students in the eighth grade. “So it was really neat to see them make that connection that it doesn’t just show up here.”
A total of 32 lbs. of blueberries were picked and eaten at Liberty.
Along with blueberries, students are getting a variety of other locally-grown produce through the program including apples, lettuces, peaches, and strawberries.