Photo by Cathy Nelson/Fall River County Herald Star
Hot Springs schools’ Food Service Director Kelli Rhoe stands by a colorful poster of a salad bar that is posted in the school kitchen. She looks forward to working with gardeners, who will donate their fresh vegetables and fruit to the school for the daily salad bar starting in August.
By Cathy Nelson
HOT SPRINGS – Beginning in August, fresh locally-grown vegetables and fruits can be donated to the Hot Springs schools for students to enjoy in their lunches. Gardens often produce more than can be used at home, so a beneficial place to donate the food will be the school.
Fresh fruit and vegetables are served at the school every day for all grades. “Kids love the salad bar,” said Kelli Rhoe, who is the Hot Springs schools’ Food Service Director. “They can pick the food they want.” She added that the students enjoy dipping the vegetables in the dressings they choose from the salad bar.
The food that is donated from local gardens must be fresh. No processed food is accepted. Rhoe said the food service workers can process the food in the school kitchen, but they are not allowed to receive home-processed food from the public. The food must be handled safely. Depending on the amount of food received, the school kitchen staff can freeze some of the food to serve later.
The school must go through an application process with the state to participate in the program. Rhoe said the donation of food is termed “gleaning” in the literature that describes the program. Also, she will need to record the amount and value of the donations as they are received.
Rhoe said they will start with fruit and vegetables and may add meat, poultry, fish and dairy later. As the program grows, she said the school could incorporate classes that involve students in hands-on learning through various activities, such as preschoolers visiting farms, talking with students in the lunchrooms, and involving the FFA. Also, some of the food could be added to the backpack program, which is a program that sends food home with some students over the weekends.
Starting in August, anyone who wants to donate fresh garden produce should set up times to deliver the food to the school by calling this phone number: 745-7847.
There are no set hours to call the above number because Rhoe said, “If they are willing to donate, I’m willing to work with them,” she said. “It helps kids.”