History

The North Carolina Farm to School Program was formed in 1997 by the N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) Food Distribution and Marketing Divisions and the U.S. Department of Defense Produce Merchandising Office (DOD) to develop a system for North Carolina schools across the state to receive fresh produce grown by local farmers.

The program began testing the market for apples and strawberries grown in Western and Eastern North Carolina. This was a big success and the N.C. Farm to School Program was expanded throughout the State the following year.

The program has undergone changes. Foster-Caviness Produce Company is now the prime vendor for
North Carolina contracted by the Department of Defense. As of the 2008-09 school year, the N.C. Farm to School program has been operated by NCDA&CS Food Distribution and Marketing Divisions.

All school districts in North Carolina are encouraged to participate in the N.C. Farm to School Program.
Deliveries now include strawberries, watermelons, cantaloupes, several varieties of apples, slicing and grape tomatoes, sweet potatoes, green cabbage, broccoli, apple slices, kale, collards, peaches,
Asian pears, romaine, honey dew melon, blueberries and more that are grown on North Carolina farms.

NCDA&CS Food Distribution Division works with the child nutrition directors across the state to see what produce school cafeterias can utilize. Next, as the various produce items come into season,
Food Distribution publishes produce items into NC-ECOS catalog for schools to place their orders.
The Markets Division works with the N.C. commodity associations and individual farmers to harvest, pack, and store the produce in climate-controlled facilities in order to maintain optimum quality and shelf life.
The Marketing Division also develops promotions for the school districts to promote North Carolina grown produce and sends out educational materials supplied by commodity associations to schools statewide.
The Food Distribution Division utilizes its fleet of tractor-trailers to pick up the produce and deliver it to the school systems.

The program has been well received. By buying produce directly from North Carolina farmers the child nutrition directors know the students are getting locally grown produce and the program has opened an additional market for the North Carolina farmers.