Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


October 10, 2013

Now serving: Native crops

Cafeterias stress local foods for Farm To School week

It was the kind of week where an apple imported from overseas triggered a biting reaction.

Throughout Andover Public Schools last week, health and education leaders took note of not only what students were having for lunch, but where their food was from.

So at a time when orchards throughout the region are churning out apples and pumpkins by the bushel, an apple from outside New England raised some eyebrows.

“I talked to one student. He was eating an apple. It had a sticker on it, and I asked him, ‘Where is the apple from?’” Gail Koutroubas, director of food services, said. “He said New Zealand.”

The educational initiative was part of the state’s Farm to School week and local officials used the opportunity to speak to students about the importance of supporting local farms and how smart food choices can make a drastic difference both in and out of the classroom.

While the town’s schools typically incorporate produce and other crops from local farms into their breakfast and lunch menus, some students aren’t paying as close attention to the origins of the food they’re eating, officials said.

“We have all these great orchards throughout New England, and we’re still importing,” Koutroubas said. “I can see it in the winter, but now?”

In a way, staying local pays itself back, according to Koutroubas.

“It’s important that students realize that it does tie back to the local economy,” she said. “It helps the businesses as well — businesses support the schools through local taxes. It goes full circle.”

Throughout the week, school officials — including Superintendent Marinel McGrath — helped spread awareness about native crops by distributing locally grown apples to the town’s approximately 6,000 students.

The apples were carted in from Donabedian Farms just over the border in Salem, N.H., which draws produce from farms and orchards throughout the region.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Pictures of the Week