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Fresh produce goes home with Jackson Elementary families

Nearly 40 families picking up their children from Jackson Elementary School Tuesday afternoon left with a bag of fresh produce, courtesy of local farms and markets.

Starting last summer, Jackson Elementary, in collaboration with ACCESS Inc., began giving away free produce to families living in the area at 2:15 p.m. every Tuesday.

Most of the fruits and vegetables are gone by 2:45 p.m., but what’s left over is donated to Kids Unlimited, said Christina Ferrari, a behavioral specialist at the school.

On Tuesday, parents signed in with Ferrari, who then gave them a green laminated number. When their number was called, the parents were given a plastic bag that they could fill with fruits and vegetables at the produce stand in the foyer.

“It’s awesome that I get to see my students go home with fresh fruits and vegetables,” Ferrari said.

“This is real community outreach,” she added.

Tuesday’s variety included heads of lettuce, boxes and bags of mixed greens, tomatoes, corn on the cob, grapes, onions, potatoes, green beans, carrots, peaches, zucchini and squash. Snack packs with apple slices and caramel dip and carrots and ranch dressing also were available and, in most cases, didn't make it out the door unopened.

While waiting to pick up her third-grade daughter, Twanissa Cox and her kindergarten son, Harlan, selected a bag of mandarin oranges and some carrots, grapes and mixed greens from the stand.

“I know this is a poor area, and some of the kids don’t have access to healthy food except at school,” Cox said. “This is a way to provide that at home.”

Nicky Love, Jackson’s Neighborhood Center coordinator, picks up 20 cases of produce from ACCESS every Tuesday morning and brings it back to the school. The food, she said, is donated by local farms and grocery stores.

“So many of our families are working, so it’s hard for them to get to (ACCESS) food sites, and the closest food site (at the Santo Community Center) only serves once a week, so this is to supplement that,” Love said. “Parents are really grateful for this and really enjoying it. And now parent volunteers are helping to run the stand.”

Love said she also is looking for volunteer drivers.

“One of the reasons we only get 20 cases is because I’m the only driver and that’s all I can fit in my van," she said.

Jackson advertises the produce stand on its Facebook page and has a sign outside. And, as one parent pointed out, although the sign doesn't say so, the produce is free.

Sandy Tison saw the sign for the first time Tuesday when she was picking up her three grandchildren from school.

“This saves me from having to go to the grocery store after school,” Tison said, holding a box of mixed greens and some potatoes.

“We’ll have a salad, baked potatoes and hamburgers tonight,” she added.

Love said the produce stand will be open all year, although the variety will change with the seasons and what’s available.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.

Damaso Flores, 2, looks over the offerings at the produce stand at Jackson Elementary School on Tuesday. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore