School board continues to mull farm to school food possibility

Itawamba County school buses roll out. (File photo by Adam Armour)

Itawamba County school buses roll out. (File photo by Adam Armour)

Staff Writer

School officials are still considering utilizing locally grown foods to feed the county’s children.

Last week, James Keller, a Peaceful Valley farmer, spoke to the Itawamba County School Board about county school cafeterias taking part in a growing trend of stocking locally grown foods.

Keller, who had spoken to the board in November, reiterated his willingness to provide additional information concerning this possibility. According to him, the program has experienced success in at least three North Mississippi schools.

“I am mainly concerned with the safety of the food our children are being fed,” Keller said. “I believe some of the food our children are eating is not grown under the best conditions.”

According to the farmer, it’s difficult to know the types and amounts of pesticides and fertilizer being used in foreign-grown foods. That’s not the case when the food is produced locally.

“I am concerned about your children and grandchildren just as I am my own,” he continued. “Just want to keep their overall health at the forefront.”

Keller’s proposal doesn’t come from left field. According to the nonprofit advocacy group The National Farm to School Network, three Mississippi school districts currently serve homegrown foods: Oxford, Mound Bayou and Coahoma. The U.S. Department of Agriculture does have grants available to help schools fund farm to school programs, if they seek them out.

If the schools were to pursue this food source, much of what is served in the cafeterias would be locally grown or produced.

Although the board has repeatedly expressed interest in Keller’s proposal, they have some serious concerns about the liability of serving locally grown food and the ability of local producers to provide enough of it.

“My main concern is our being able to obtain an adequate supply of these foods,” said Itawamba County Superintendent of Education Michael Nanney.

Keller assured Nanney that neither would be a problem.

Nanney agreed to speak with Keller again after consulting the school district’s food services coordinator, Kenny Coker.

In other business, the board

• Accepted resignations of Ron Price and Darden Price, effective February 10;

• Approved hiring Natalie Satterwhite, teacher, and Amy Johnson, assistant teacher, at IAC, Shelia Ray, full time bus driver at Career/Technical Center, Clint Vanasselberg, Dorsey Attendance Center bus driver, Sandra Whitt and Susie Warren, tutorial services;

• Approved substitute list;

• Discussed facilities use policy with approval to come at next board meeting;

• Approved field trips;

• Accepted Target grant to FAC second grade class to be used for field trips;

• Approved $300 donations to IAHS and IAC scholar’s bowl teams and Mantachie Math and Science team for competition expenses;

• Approved workshops; and

• Approved inventory deletions.

About Adam Armour

Adam Armour has been writing and taking photographs for "The Itawamba County Times" since 2005. His words and pictures have earned 18 Mississippi Press Association Awards, including several "Best of" category recognitions. He has written and independently published one novel and is currently working on a second.