OLATHE, Kan. — A program sending locally grown produce to Kansas City-area school districts is giving students healthy options at school while also teaching them about shaping the diet over the course of their lives.

“The kids can come through here and make their own salads, or make a side salad,” said Gardner-Edgerton School District Cafeteria Manager Brenda Cloud, showing FOX4 a garden bar in the cafeteria line.

It’s possible because the district’s Director of Nutrition Services Amy Droegemeier crossed paths with local farmer Steve Bowlin right around the time they both were trying to get local produce into local schools.

“It’s coming super fresh to us, right out of the fields or out of the greenhouses,” Droegemeier said. “If he can’t grow it, he finds it and he finds it locally.”

Gardner-Edgerton’s Farm to Fork program not only gives students local, healthy option in the cafeteria line but also teaches them why those foods are better for them as part of the districts curriculum.

Cloud said that message stays with students, who tell her it helps them make better decisions around food even after they leave the building.

“I’ve tried it all and so now I know what it tastes like so I’m not afraid to try something and I’m not afraid to try something new,” Cloud said students tell her.

“Very few kids even know what a beat is,” Bowlin said. “And that’s part of my goal is getting the kids to try something they may not even know about.”

Bowlin says in the past, local kids worked on his farm over the summer and learned about how agriculture works. In recent years, there are fewer kids looking for that kind of opportunity, so he hopes this kind of experience can pass along a similar knowledge to students in participating districts.

“I wanted kids…to know where food comes from,” Droegemeier said. “To know that a potato grows underground, a tomato grows on a vine.”

Now, Bowlin said he’s reaching out to other school districts to get them involved while trying to convince additional farmers to be part of the program.

You can find Bowlin’s contact information here.