On a normal day, they all admitted they're more likely to go for a slice of pizza. But most of them shrugged or nodded at the prospect of trying the sprouts, and each of them had a tray heaped with fresh, local produce and veggie burgers -- which they couldn't necessarily identify, but enjoyed eating just the same.
Even the buns those burgers were sandwiched in were a marvel of locally sourced food: the whole wheat flower was grown at Cranberry Farms in Preston County, and then delivered to Brunetti Bakery in Wayne County where it was baked.
Kanawha County students have been seeing some local fare in their cafeterias for more than a year, but that's mainly limited to things like apple butter and some produce. Still Diane Miller, Kanawha County's child nutrition director, said the Farm to Schools movement will, ideally, lead to a more sustainable system for putting local foods in schools across the county and state.
"It's a big opportunity to showcase some of the local food in West Virginia," she said. "But I don't want it to just be once a year, I really want it to be every day as much as possible."
That's not easy. There are issues with logistics that accompany the food's trip from its source to the county's schools. And there's the strain of preparing food from scratch in kitchens that are designed for less involved food preparation
Plus the growing season in West Virginia presents limitations - it's tough to get a fresh, locally grown tomato in West Virginia during January, for example.
Right now, there just aren't enough West Virginia farms to support a robust local menu in all of the state's schools. That's why organizers, like Bekki Leigh from the state Office of Child Nutrition, also sees the program as one part economic development project.
"We need more farmers," she said. "And we need to get a place as a state where we reduce the costs of distribution and all of that so it can become move localized."
For now the project is limited, but growing: last year, around $350,000 were spent on local products in West Virginia schools. Thirty counties purchased local food for their schools last year.
Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.ma...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.