STUDENTS at McKinley Middle School in St. Albans enjoyed fresh, West Virginia grown food for lunch on Wednesday. Well, for some of the kids, the word "enjoyed" may be too strong.
But nevertheless, students who have been accustomed to daily servings of highly processed, high sodium foods manufactured in plants across America, frozen and shipped, then reheated, got the chance to experience food grown and sourced right here in the Mountain State.
For some kids growing up in a fast-food world, it may be a rare opportunity to eat fresh, locally grown food.
Good for them. And good job by those working to increase the amount of West Virginia grown and highly nutritious foods in our schools.
On a daily basis, school cooks and nutritionists prepare meals for hundreds of kids, being sure to follow complex sets of requirements at minimal cost.
To fill the demand for relatively easy, inexpensive and reliable foods, a major school-lunch food industry has grown across the United States. It's understandable that those charged with providing meals work with the national vendors.
The unintended consequence: fresh and local foods were generally pushed out in favor of large corporate food providers that could guarantee reliable delivery of large, standardized quantities of food at low prices.
It's good to see that organizations like county school systems and the state Department of Agriculture are working to get more local foods into schools.
"It's a big opportunity to showcase some of the local food in West Virginia," said Kanawha County Child Nutrition Director Diana Miller of the McKinley event. "But I don't want it to just be once a year. I really want it to be every day as much as possible."
Changing this habit by school systems of purchasing standardized processed food from corporate buyers isn't going to happen easily, or overnight.
"We need more farmers," Bekki Leigh of the state office of Child Nutrition, told Daily Mail Reporter Shay Maunz. "And we need to get to a place as a state where we reduce the costs of distribution . . . so it can be more localized."
The state's Farm to Schools initiative, in place for about three years, is working on making that happen.
That's a harvest we could all be proud of.