CHIPLEY - Local students will literally be getting a taste of their community this school year, thanks to a partnership between the Washington County School System's nutrition program and local produce vendor, Main Street Market in Chipley.
"I was approached with the idea last year," says Paul Davidson, who opened Main Street Market in 2008. "I told them if they were looking for the cheapest price, they had the wrong guy, that I dealt in quality. I was pleased when the representative responded that was his interest, too."
Connie Walker is Director of Dining Services for Chartwell, the company contracted by the school system to operate its nutrition services.
"We are so happy to have this local partnership," said Walker. "Last year, we worked with a vendor out of Alabama, and they only delivered once a week. If we needed something in the meantime, or if they forgot something, they'd sometimes tell us it would take a couple days. Here, it takes only a phone call to Main Street Market and a few minutes."
Davidson makes deliveries to Washington County schools twice a week with the help of his staff, which includes his son, Jacob Davidson, and his mother, Neta Davidson.
Davidson keeps the produce as locally grown as possible, with items like peas, watermelons, okra, peanuts and butter beans all grown by farms in Washington, Holmes, and Jackson counties. Some items, like apples and lettuce, are only available from out of state, however.
Increasing the quality and localization of produce isn't the only goal of the partnership. Walker and Davidson plan to team up to present tasting events for area children in an effort to encourage them to try something new.
"Not all children have tried every kind of fresh fruit or vegetable," said Walker. "We hope if we set up a table at the schools at some point in the year and offer samples, that students may discover a new favorite healthy food."