The school district in Turlock, surrounded by fields and orchards in one of the nation's richest agricultural regions, used to get much of the produce it served to students from national distributors who shipped fruits and vegetables from outside California.
But, starting in August, student meals have featured apples, peaches, nectarines, plums and oranges from farms only a few miles away — with the help of a new online company that connects local farmers with school districts.
California-based Ag Link allows school districts to communicate with nearby farmers and buy their produce with the click of a mouse. It's helping the Turlock district and others meet new federal rules requiring more fruits and vegetables in school cafeterias to help prevent childhood obesity.
"The quality and selection we're seeing coming right from the farms is incredible," said Scott Soiseth, director of child nutrition for the Turlock Unified School District. "Children get to eat the product that's picked that same morning."