With childhood obesity a growing problem in the United States, Milford School District is taking steps to help students eat healthier meals by partnering with local farms to obtain fresh produce and other products. The latest partnership is with 302 Aquaponics who will provide fresh lettuce greens for salads and sandwiches.
“The Delaware School Districts participate in Farm to School programs,” Sharon Forest, Supervisor of Child Nutrition at Milford School District, said. “WE recently piggybacked off Smyrna School District’s contract with Wood Creek Farms which operates 302 Aquaponics and will be ordering our lettuce greens from them for our salads and sandwiches. We will be receiving a variety of romaine lettuces, Summer Crisp and Butter/Bibb lettuce.”
Katie Wood, who operates 302 Aquaponics and Wood Creek Farms with her husband, Doug, explained that the company began as a hobby and grew into a commercial operation. Doug, a former special education teacher, began growing lettuce and strawberries in a small greenhouse at home. He took his products to school with him to share with other teachers and staff members at Smyrna School District.
“Many people told him he should do this for “real” and it stuck,” Katie said. “After taking more than a year to build the greenhouse and get the system up and running, 302 Aquaponics was ready to begin selling lettuce in February 2020. The business model from first concept was to provide lettuce to schools and local restaurants. During the pandemic, while schools were closed for students and districts needed to provide meals to families, 302 Aquaponics supplied lettuce to several different school districts.”
Forrest stated that the partnership benefits students as they will be provided fresh, grown locally produce without pesticides that are grown in a controlled environment.
“You can’t get any fresher than that,” Forrest said. “We also partner with Fifer Orchards for apples during apple season, providing fresh local apples to all our children. WE also use a Delaware dairy, Hypoint Dairy for our milk.”
Growing up in Milford, Doug wanted to be able to provide for his hometown, so when the call came from Forrest inquiring about the products 302 Aquaponics offered, he was thrilled to take samples to the district.
“He provided samples at a meeting with many of the child nutrition managers to see what they thought,” Katie said. “Beginning Tuesday, September 27, Milford schools began receiving three varieties of fresh lettuce.”
Forrest stated that the district will continue to seek partnerships with local farmers in order to enhance the farm-to-school program.
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