On a warm September evening in Merced, CA, hundreds of students and families gathered for “Back to School Night” across Merced City School District’s 14 elementary schools. Fortunately for attendees who might be hungry for a snack after a long day at school or work, MCSD’s Food and Nutrition Services had an information table set up with a treat: delicious fruit samples!
These samples of Emerald Beaut Pluots and Red Plums were locally grown in and near Merced County and brought to MCSD by way of Fresno BIPOC Produce, a fresh fruit and vegetable aggregator based out of Fresno. The tasting tables were brought together through a collaboration between the Community Alliance with Family Farmers and the Merced County Department of Public Health, funded by a CalFresh Healthy Living grant.
While many shy students and curious parents had never tried a green pluot before, with some encouragement from food service staff, frequent comments of “Wow, that’s really good!” and “where can I get more of these? They’re delicious!” were heard throughout the event. Many parents were excited to hear that the fruit being provided to their children at school was grown locally. Some even took photos of the Fresno BIPOC Produce sign so that they could find out more information when they got home. At Rivera Elementary School, every single one of the sweet and tangy pluots and plums were passed out by the end of the night.
For a small-scale aggregator like Fresno BIPOC Produce, this sort of partnership can be a great opportunity. Providing high-quality, nutrient-dense, and unique varieties of fruits and vegetables to students encourages them to eat healthy while supporting the local economy. As more school districts start incorporating Farm to School programming into their Food Service Departments, partnerships like that between Fresno BIPOC Produce and Merced City School District set a good example of how to feed many students with produce grown by local small-scale farmers.