LISTEN: Hillsborough School District Serves An All-Florida Lunch

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TAMPA -- When students in Hillsborough County schools sit down to lunch Thursday (21st), they'll be served a meal sourced entirely from Florida.

Shani Hall, director of Nutrition Services, says the district has been working for years to supply more meals from closer to home, because local is faster and fresher. That inspired them to think about offering an all-Florida meal. "We thought, could we ever get to the place where we could offer the whole menu from Florida?"

Hall says the challenges include finding farms big enough to supply the district, which serves almost 200,000 meals per day, and capable of handling the logistics of processing at scale and other issues. Another roadblock, red tape in school lunch programs that requires school districts to use the cheapest sources. The district has been partnering with different farmers across Florida, including a farm-to-school coalition, and Florida-grown produce began appearing more frequently in the district's cafeterias.

The all-Florida Food Day is a breakthrough and Hall says they're going to continue working to source more cafeteria items in state, because shorter travel time means fresher, tastier, and more nutritious food. Hall says many of the children come from farming families and they want to reflect that in school menus.

Today's all-Florida meal includes: Chicken empanadas (from Sunsof Corporation of Hialeah), fresh strawberries (from Wish Farms, Plant City), Mexican street corn (from R.C. Hatton in Pahokee), and milk (from M&B Products of Temple Terrace.

Find out more about the challenges of students eating local food in our Beyond the News podcast below.

Photo: Canva

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