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It was a celebration of locally grown food as kids around the state took part in "Virginia Farm-to-School Week."
Business was brisk at the Local Food Hub during the annual farm-to-school event, which ran from Nov. 12-16. Local Food Hub is a distribution point working with 75 different farmers to connect local food with restaurants, grocery stores and institutions. This week was especially busy with additional deliveries to 52 schools.
School cafeterias throughout the state were featuring locally grown tomatoes, grass-fed beef, sweet potatoes and apples, said the Food Hub's Emily Manley.
"We'll go in and bring 10 different varieties of apples and let the kids kind of choose their favorite apple," she said. "And most kids are surprised that green apples and red apples taste different, and they can tell the difference."
Farmer Steve Vargo will never forget the day he tagged along for an apple tasting.
"I remember some kids who would just stand there at our table and shovel in apples, and it was like they just couldn't get enough of the stuff," he said.
At Tye River Elementary near Lovingston, Va., more than 375 children lined up to try sweet potatoes in two colors: orange and white. The program sold many children on surprising options, said cafeteria manager Francis Kidd.
"Broccoli — they love broccoli and carrots," she said.
A few kids were so excited they dressed up for Farm-to-School Week. One fifth-grade boy wore overalls, his best plaid Sunday school shirt and a straw hat to lunch.
"The school's been trying to get a lot more healthy nowadays, and I've been trying just to see what I like," he said. One thing that passed muster: the sweet potato fries. Another young student was pleased to discover there's more to life than red apples.
"I tasted the apples right there, and they actually taste better than the red apples, smoother and not that crunchy," she said.
More critically, the kids discover that farmers in their own neighborhood grow food by putting seeds in the ground, that dirt is good and that fresh is better.