Education Matters: Students sell produce at school-run farm markets

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People in the community of Del Rey know where to go if they want fresh produce. They go to their local school – Del Rey Elementary which operates its own fresh produce market.
 
“When we have events people come they come because there are no where else to go,” Principal Pete Munoz said.
 
There’s only one grocery store in the small farming town of less than 2,000 people. Providing residents – including the school children – with little if any access to fresh produce.
 
“We want kids to start to learn to eat fruits and vegetables really early when it’s hardest for them to do so,” said Brady Matoian, CEO of OK Produce.
 
When looking at ways to get fresh produce into the hands of underserved communities, OK Produce – one of the Valley’s largest suppliers of fresh fruits and vegetables – had an idea.
 
“We were going to directly give back by teaching kids how to eat fruits and vegetables by having them do it themselves and as opposed to them coming to use we went to them,” Matoian said.
 
Working in partnership with the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, fresh fruit produce stands were set up at schools in three school districts. The twist – the students would run the fruit stands.
 
“We help set up and we put the boxes on the table and we start sorting them out,” said Cesar Galvez, a student at Del Rey Elementary.
 
OK Produce provides the product at cost and the kids do the rest.
 
The produce stands are operating as an after-school program at schools in Sanger Unified, Fresno Unified and Central Unified.
 
At Madison Elementary in Central Unified, advisor Jackie Oliver said the students are learning new skills.
 
“It’s giving them the opportunity to open their own entrepreneurial business. They have been able to learn about topics like supply and demand, fruit and vegetables that are in season,” Oliver said.
 
“I learned how to do math quickly – how to make healthy meals,” said Vicente Ramirez, a Madison Elementary student. “We learned how to deposit, market – make checks.”
 
Fresno County Superintendent of Schools calls the program a win-win situation.
 
At a recent event aimed at addressing hunger in the Central Valley, Superintendent  Jim Yovino praised the importance of partnerships.
 
He said, “We have kids now on our campuses delivering fresh fruit to our community, and they are doing it at a reasonable price because as the Matoian family know it’s important to give back.”

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