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Maryland school districts provide fresh local food to children

Biting into a yummy local peach or chomping down on fresh steamed corn is a treat of summer that doesn't usually crop up in a school cafeteria.

But Maryland school districts are putting a lot of fresh produce in their summer nutrition programs, so much, in fact, that it is first in the nation in getting local produce into the mouths of youngsters in summer food programs.

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During the summer, when disadvantaged children no longer have access to school lunches, school systems in Maryland have formed partnerships with local agencies  to offer food at summer schools, libraries and even some farmers' markets. In Anne Arundel County, for instance, the public schools, the health department and Shlagel Farms are working together to operate a pop-up market at Brooklyn Park Middle School.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reimburses agencies and school systems for meals that are served during the summer as a way to combat hunger. More Maryland school districts purchase local foods for summer nutrition programs than any other state in the nation, according to the USDA.

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Nationally, 22 percent of districts participating in the summer program buy local foods. That compares to 59 percent in Maryland.

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