Fresno Unified turns to local farmers for fresh produce

FRESNO, Calif.

Fresno Unified has several large distributors which provide produce for daily meals. But now the district has agreed to buy locally grown strawberries to add to the mix.

Sam Saephan is picking only the reddest, sweetest strawberries. Sam's stand in Reedley opens this weekend, but most of these berries will wind up in Fresno Unified cafeterias.

Fresno Unified prepares 85-thousand meals a day. They're full of fruit and vegetables so kids can have healthier choices. The district was looking for the freshest produce, and felt strawberries were the perfect local crop to bring into the daily offerings.

"The benefits of working directly with the farmer is that we can plan with them in terms of the ripeness of the product, just in time deliveries so we can serve them the next day," said Jose Alvarado, Fresno Unified Food Services Director.

Action News was there as Fresno Unified gave Saephan his purchase order -- making him an official district food vendor. He first had to go through a food safety program, but now he doesn't have to rely solely on sales from his roadside stand.

A year ago Pao met Harold Chulantseff, a member of Fresno County's Farm to School Committee. Harold connected Pao to the district.

Pao grows three acres of strawberries but he has room to expand on the leased land.

Fresno unified is also meeting with other farmers. "We're scheduled to look at some broccoli on the Westside and some citrus fruits in the Parlier area," said Alvarado.

Next week students at some Fresno Unified schools will notice fresh strawberries on their lunch trays.

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