New Jersey plans to use the state’s fresh produce to create food for schools.

New Jersey expands produce in school lunch

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded New Jersey $51,000, to develop new food for school lunches, part of more than $1.3 million in matching grants throughout the country for the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program.

“A significant market opportunity exists if the seasonal availability of New Jersey agricultural products to the school meal programs could be expanded,” according to a New Jersey Department of Agriculture news release.

Every year, the state distributes more than 800,000 pounds of locally grown fruits and vegetables to New Jersey schools through a cooperative agreement the state has with the U.S. Department of Defense.  

Because of the September-June school year, however, the New Jersey agriculture department reports it would be difficult to expand those quantities.

The state is considering developing portion-controlled products such as fresh-cut fruit and vegetable snacks, and beverages, soups, entrees and desserts that use New Jersey fruits and vegetables.

The agency plans to develop products that meet cost, nutrition, portion-control and cafeteria handling requirements, help grower profitability, allow for distribution throughout the school year and study the possibility of using produce in school vending machines, according to the release.

In fiscal year 2010, New Jersey distributed 30 million pounds of surplus agricultural commodities to more than 700 school districts through $20 million it received from the USDA’s School Lunch Commodity Distribution Program, according to the release.