Austintown Schools Refreshing Lunch Menu

The Austintown School District is refreshing the lunch menu for its students, and soon will include fresh, locally-grown produce.

Eight fourth-and-fifth-graders from the Austintown Local School District toured the Huffman Fruit Farm in Salem Thursday morning, learning about hoop-house farming and how some crops can be grown almost year-round, even in Ohio.

"It's a growing movement to have people eat more local food," said John Huffman of Huffman Fruit Farm. "Some people feel that the foods grown around you are fresher, are more nutritious etc., and there can be a lot of truth to that."

The students will be working with cafeteria staff to do taste-testing, like fresh versus bagged lettuce, and getting other students excited about healthier eating options.

"Everything has so many preservatives in it and I think this is a great project for them to see actually that there's local area farmers that grow these things," said Tascin Brooks, food service director for Austintown Local Schools.

The partnership between the farm and the district is made possible by the Lake to River Cooperative, a relatively new effort to help local growers get their food into local institutions.

"Agriculture is one of the No. 1 pieces of the Ohio economy. It's a big piece, and moving into more local vegetable and fruit production and consumption within the state is a needed new dimension of that because a lot of our agriculture is cash grains and other things," said Jim Converse, co-founder of Lake to River Cooperative. "It involves getting, especially young people, but other consumers also, more in touch with the farmers who grow their food so they know where it comes from and hopefully we'll start buying more things locally to put more of their dollars back into the local economy."

At the beginning of next school year, students will start taste-testing the different fruit and vegetable options.

Brooks said she hopes to feature a different vegetable every month.

(Click here to view the Video Clip)