The Preston County school system already purchases tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, eggs and honey from local farmers, said Charlene Strahin, child nutrition coordinator for the district. The school system is hoping to have a constant supply of local food on the menu in all 10 of its cafeterias, which serve about 2,000 students daily.
She's hoping to get a steady supply of lettuce from local farmers who are using growing techniques that will allow them to keep producing long after the traditional season ends. The district spent $11,000 on lettuce last school year, she said.
Strahin said she'll buy locally grown food whenever possible.
"It's fresher," she said. "The fresher the food, the better taste you have."
Preston County was chosen for the program's statewide kickoff because it has a group of farmers who are able to supply food to the schools, said Buddy Davidson, a spokesman for the state agriculture department.
Transportation could be a factor in supplying West Virginia-produced food into schools where there's little agricultural production, he said. But the distances within the state would be much shorter than for most foods served in the state's schools, he said.
"How far is the food that they're already getting being transported?" he said. "If they're getting it within West Virginia, it's bound to be closer to where it came from originally."
Besides fruits and vegetables, the state's cattle industry could also benefit from the Farm to School initiative, Davidson said. Schools could become a market for beef that's raised and processed in the state, he said.
"What we can do in this state is cut out the middle man, increase our processing capability and market that meat within the state," he said. "And schools are just a part of where we would like to see that go."