Local strawberries feed students

Published 5:49 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2020

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Strawberries are currently in season and Beaufort County Schools is taking advantage of the local bounty, purchasing 1,000 pounds of the flavorful fruit from Southside Farms for BCS students to enjoy.

Southside Farms grows close to 100,000 pounds of strawberries a season, according to Billy Harding, manager of Southside Farms. Southside Farms employees plant around 50,000 strawberry plants every year, and each plant usually produces about two pounds of strawberries.

“It’s great (to have that relationship with BCS) because kids get to eat fresh and local produce,” Harding said. “We do strawberries and collard greens in the fall, so they get to eat fresh local produce. It helps us out. The school paid for them, but we give them a good discount on them. It helps us clean our fields up, get nice pretty strawberries out there and keep the crop looking good.”

Southside Farms and BCS have partnered for more than 10 years, and Gwyn Roberson-McBride, BCS child nutrition director, expressed the importance of children being able to enjoy the fresh produce.

“It’s all a part of the farm-to-school purchase local initiative. Southside is a GAP certified farm here in Beaufort County,” McBride said. “GAP stands for ‘Good Agricultural Practices,’ and the farm has to be GAP certified for us to be able to purchase from them. So we try to purchase strawberries and other produce that is GAP certified also from Southside Farms.”

This year has been an atypical school year, which caused a change in the amount of strawberries BCS purchased.

“When school is in, we purchase thousands of pounds of strawberries, but I think we did pretty good with the almost thousand pounds we got this week. They will bring us that amount — if not more, depending on our participation — each week while the berries are good,” McBride said. “We use them in the lunches (for students). We wash them, dry them; sometimes if we have some extra time, we’ll put some Cool Whip on them and put them in a cup, or if we have cake, we’ll make strawberry shortcake. I believe this week we’re just going to serve them out as clean strawberries, then we’ll do something different next week.”

The strawberries are divvied up to students at the five drive-thru sites and four walk-up sites that are serving meals to BCS students.

“Families come in like a drive-thru like service, tell us how many kids they have in their household and (we) send out that many lunches to them,” McBride said. “On Fridays, we send weekend meals. … We pack those with two breakfasts and two lunches as well as directions on how to prepare them.”

BCS is handing out around 2,300 breakfast and lunch meals every day, and they send almost 10,000 meals home to kids on Fridays for the weekend, according to McBride.