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CCSD partners with local hydroponic farm, Vertical Roots

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Vertical Roots taste testing

Students at Chicora Elementary School participated in a taste-testing event with representatives from Nutrition Services and Vertical Roots.

Charleston County School District recently announced a partnership with Vertical Roots, a leading indoor hydroponic container farming company. Vertical Roots produces nutrient-rich lettuce with globally recognized food safety standards inside its ecofriendly, upcycled container farms.

The district’s Office of Nutrition Services will incorporate lettuce from Vertical Roots in the salads offered in school cafeterias starting on Feb. 24.

Vertical Roots lettuce testing

Checking out the lettuce from Vertical Roots.

As part of the rollout, students at Chicora Elementary School participated in a taste-testing event with representatives from Nutrition Services and Vertical Roots.

“CCSD knows that students, communities, and farmers win when schools implement farm to school practices,” said Kerrie Hollifield, the district’s registered dietitian. “This partnership with Vertical Roots is going to allow students to eat local salads every day of the week. We plan as a district to be the gold standard of supporting local agricultural programs and building vibrant communities.”

Vertical Roots farms use 98 percent less water than conventional farming methods to sustainably grow non-GMO lettuce that is pesticide-free. Their farms also generate eight-times more produce per acre of land compared to traditional farms. For example, Vertical Roots four acre farm in Columbia is equivalent to 350 acres of traditional farmland.

Vertical Roots grows lettuce every day of the year at their farms in the Charleston and Columbia areas. Their produce is harvested at the peak of freshness and delivered to grocery stores within one to three days.

“The partnership with Charleston County School District is very important to Vertical Roots and our mission,” added Andrew Hare, co-founder and general manager of Vertical Roots. “Our youth is our future. This will create a hyperlocal farm experience for students, and educate them on nutritional benefits of local produce as they better understand where their food comes from.”

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