RICHFORD — The Abbey Group and Green Heron Farms of Richford are partnering with distributor Reinhart Foodservice to bring Vermont grown produce to area schools. The partnership, three years in the making, will allow school children to enjoy vegetables that have been picked just days before they appear on their plates.

Scott Choiniere, Vice President of Operations at the Abbey Group, has been personally campaigning for the use of more locally grown foods. “This is a big deal for The Abbey Group, Reinhart Foodservice, and the farmer. We are all working together to make this happen,” he said. “This partnership is great because this connection can keep going for a long time. As we can find sources, we can find farmers who really want to expand and get bigger.”

“The kids are the number one priority,” Choiniere added. “And we train our staff to remember that as small as the kids are, they are all very important to us. Our goal is to serve the kids. We are constantly working with our menus to improve our products.”

Initially, Choiniere would go to Green Heron Farms himself and pick up lettuce, personally overseeing its delivery to local schools. After establishing the routine, he delegated the pickup and drop off to other staff members, including the head chef.

With Reinhart now picking up produce from Green Heron, the Abbey Group will be able to purchase more of the farm’s fresh greens. This year, the Abbey Group expects to buy 300 cases of lettuce from Green Heron to serve in 100 schools in Vermont, New Hampshire and at the Miner Institute in New York. That is equal to about 20,000 individual, one-cup servings.

Choiniere pointed out that the lettuce will be cut on Monday, picked up Tuesday, and distributed Wednesday. “Typically, produce has a two week shelf life… Most produce has a week on it before it comes to the kids. This partnership with Green Heron and Reinhart Foodservice takes out a week,” he said.

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