The Norwich (CT) Public Schools Dept. of Food Services has received a $49,999 Farm Viability Grant from the state's Dept. of Agriculture to use its production kitchen during the summer to make bulk products using the season's plentiful local crops. The department is using the funds, which are to be matched by the district, to purchase equipment such as a large steamer, a quick chill unit and a vacuum-pack machine as well as a van to pick up product from the grower sites, says Foodservice Director Roberta Jacobs.
"A lot of the farms have the crops but have no way to get it to us, so we'll go get it," she explains.
The idea is to take advantage of the plentiful supply and lower cost of fresh local produce during the height of the growing season and use it to make bulk products like sauces and salsas for the 4,000-student district's lunchrooms during the following school year. In addition, fresh vegetables like green beans, broccoli and cauliflower, as well as fruits like strawberries and blueberries, could be processed and frozen for later use.
Norwich was chosen for the project because it has excess freezer capacity to hold the product until it's needed.