BRIDGETON — Through a pilot program that runs through July, city schoolchildren are receiving fresh food produced locally through weekly deliveries.
The program, launched in partnership with The Common Market, a nonprofit wholesale food distributor that works to create sustainable relationships with local farms to make communities healthier, also incentivizes food purchases from local, family farms, The Common Market said in a news release.
Through the program, Bridgeton schools will be provided fresh fruits and vegetables to add color to their students’ plates during lunches. Students also are expected to be given a protein-filled meal with pastured pork from Lima Family Farms in Hillsborough, Somerset County, for a special pork carnitas meal.
The pilot program will support 400 total pounds of local pork being purchased, The Common Market said.
“This pilot removes the barriers that have historically blocked nutritious meals from being served in our schools,” Bridgeton Public Schools Food Service Director Warren DeShields said. “Giving our students access to fresh, healthy food grown by family farms right here, in New Jersey, enriches the school food experience and fosters good health and prosperous futures for our students.”
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The nonprofit, which does business throughout the Mid-Atlantic, Southeast and Texas, according to its website, says it sees its program as a way to change school food-buying models throughout New Jersey, helping more children, especially those who may be malnourished, eat wholesome meals.
Bridgeton isn’t the only district in South Jersey benefiting from The Common Market’s farm-to-school pilot program.
In March, the nonprofit launched the program for Camden schoolchildren. Camden’s students received crops from Georgreens, a Black-owned produce supplier based in Hamilton Township, Mercer County.
The program established in both districts uses a funding algorithm that eases budgetary restrictions placed on schools, therefore they can purchase locally grown foods with greater nutritional values more easily. While students benefit from filling themselves with nutritious meals, Garden State food suppliers rack up purchases, therefore the program helps improve local economies and business at small, family owned farms, the nonprofit said.
The nonprofit also partnered with Zone 7, a New Jersey-based farm-fresh food distributor, to source the pork, it said.
“This pilot demonstrates a clear, effective way to increase local, nutritious food access in schools,” said Rachel Terry, The Common Market’s national partnerships director. “When schools have the resources to purchase along their values, it can yield deeply meaningful impact for our students, for our Jersey farms and for our communities.”
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