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Farm-to-school program takes off

(WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- It may soon become easier for some Lowcountry school children to eat produce right off the farm. The College of Charleston launched its pilot farm-to-school initiative Thursday.

The program's goal is to provide fresh produce for kids at lunchtime and teach them about farming, as well as boost the local economy. Organizers say the farm-to-school program will create a market for area farmers and make it possible for children to have consistent access to nutrient-packed foods such as locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

The pilot program is scheduled to take off at Mitchell Elementary School in downtown Charleston and at Hunley Park Elementary School in North Charleston starting next school year.

"It's an opportunity for us to give them some chances about how they can be responsible citizens," said Dirk Bedford, Mitchell Elementary principal. "This is one chance for us to teach our students something in the classroom and immediately take them outside and have them experience and look at and apply what they learned in their classroom to a real world experience."

The farm-to-school initiative is funded by a $120,000 charitable investment from Boeing.

In addition to Charleston County School District partners, local project leadership is provided by the Green Heart Project and Lowcountry Local First. The Green Heart Project, a community volunteer organization underwritten by local restaurant Taco Boy, is committed to teaching children math and science concepts along with character building through hands-on learning experiences.

The organization has an urban garden at Mitchell Elementary School that will be expanded in both scope and size with support from the farm-to-school initiative.

"Students love it, this is their favorite thing," Bedford said. "The worst thing, the worst punishment a teacher could do is deny them to come outside once a week and work with the Green Heart Project."

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