Schools + Potatoes Upper E. Tennessee Development System (SPUDS)
A frozen potato wedge product made from local potatoes continued to be produced by Jubilee Project in the Clinch Powell Community Kitchens as a healthy, oven-baked replacement for frozen French fries made from non-local potatoes and bought from a commercial distributor. Schools continue to purchase the semi-cooked, spiced frozen potato wedge product in 5-lb bags. Large-scale purchasing by local schools continues to be delayed, but it is expected that the impact of new federal and state legislation passed in 2008 will encourage local procurement and increased flexibility in bidding to enable small farms to bid on school food needs.
1. At least 7 local farmers will increase income to their farm microenterprise in the first year of the project, and at least 15 farmers by the second year of the project, by producing potatoes for sale to local schools
2. At least 4 FTE jobs will be created in the local community by the end of the first year of the project, and at least 12 FTE jobs by the end of the second year of the project.
Schools continued to purchase small quantities of the semi-cooked, spiced frozen potato wedge product in 5-lb bags. A version of the potatoes requiring less processing, and therefore costing less, was developed in anticipation of larger-scale purchasing by more local school districts. In the spring of 2008, new language in the federal Farm Bill clarified that public schools were allowed to set a local preference for food procurement, and new state legislation encouraging schools to purchase from local farmers was passed in the Tennessee General Assembly, and suggested bid language for school districts to use with food suppliers was amended to enable schools to purchase from local farmers without violating their contracts. The new state legislation and contract language will first have effect with contracts for the school year beginning August 2009. Large-scale purchasing by local schools is not likely to take effect until then, but the project was invited by top officials in the Tennessee Department of Education’s School Nutrition Service to do a presentation on farm-to-school to all of the local school district child nutrition directors (who make purchasing decisions) at their Annual Conference in mid-June, 2009.
Project staff, including Steve Hodges, and Lisa Long of Jubilee Project’s Farm to School Program and Clinch Appalachian Farm Enterprises, presented information on the availability of the potato wedges to conference participants at the 2008 Annual Conferences of Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group and Tennessee Organic Growers Association, the annual meeting of the Southeast Region of the National Farm to School Network, and to the fall 2008 quarterly meeting of the Knoxville District Dietetic Association.
Clinch Appalachian Farm Enterprises, which has been recruiting local growers and now has 25 grower members from 18 farms, is coordinating growing of dozens of varieties of produce for public schools, and for an increasing number of restaurants including the large and prestigious restaurant at a convention center in nearby Kingsport, Tennessee.
Although the delay in orders for potato wedges due to policy barriers in school procurement has meant that only one farmer has increased income and only .5 FTE jobs have been created so far, the impact of the change in state policy noted above mean that we expect to begin seeing much greater impact by the end of the project period in August 2009.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Project activities will increase income for local farmers who are growing the potatoes being used for frozen potato wedges for schools and other institutional markets. This value-added product will allow these farmers to manage risk by diversifying their farm enterprises and capture another product category and therefore another revenue stream beyond the fresh produce they are producing; by diversifying their markets to include institutional markets like schools and hospitals which are relatively recession-resistant; and by enabling them to invest their money and time in a product that is frozen and therefore has greater shelf life than fresh produce which must be harvested and delivered in a shorter period of time before it spoils.
Project activities will benefit consumers by replacing one of the most unhealthy foods served to their children in local public schools – deep fried potatoes – with a much healthier baked potato wedge alternative. Schools benefit both by having a healthy food that is more storeable than the fresh produce that makes up most of the rest of their healthy food buys. Schools, parents, and all local consumers benefit by the increased amount of money going to farmers in their own communities that previously ended up leaving the local community.
Clinch Appalachian Farm Enterprises
142 Reesor Hollow Road
Church Hill, TN 37642
Office Phone: 4233578073
993 Carters Valley Road
Rogersville, TN 37857
Office Phone: 4233452704
Panther Springs United Methodist Church
794 Whippoorwill Drive
Talbott, TN 37877
Office Phone: 8654754908
Agricultural Extension Agent
Hancock County Agricultural Extension
122 Campbell Drive
Sneedville, TN 37869
Office Phone: 4237332526