She said a few schools have taken the garden step even further by lightly processing the summer harvests by blanching and freezing produce to use after the children return from summer vacation.
School gardens aren’t the only aspect of the program that’s getting some attention, however. Schools are also working more with local farms to secure more local produce for their everyday menus.
“New Jersey is a major producer of fresh fruits and vegetables, which is a really important component,” Stein said.
Feehan also mentioned several other efforts, including logistical help and communication support for growers, schools and produce distributors.
“We’re shifting gears from focusing on the direct communication between schools and farmers to focusing on produce distributors and farmers, working on communicating local availability reports,” Feehan said.
In addition, Feehan works to ensure schools have the resources they need in their efforts to source local produce.
“There are a lot of options schools can use,” she said.
Jamie Graiff, co-owner of Newfield, N.J.-based Daniel Graiff Farms LLC, said he has seen more schools working with growers and other suppliers.
“There’s definitely a bigger push for schools to source local produce. The districts will come in and talk to growers, and there are a couple of different programs they can be a part of,” he said.