Midsection of a woman carrying a wooden box full of fresh veggies.

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More schools around the country are working to provide meals with food that was grown locally, reports NPR. At least 42,000 schools spent close to $600 million on local food during the past school year, up a healthy 50% from the previous 2012-2013 year. And the schools are finding that the more healthy, local food they provide, the less kids are throwing away—and the better they’re eating.

A school district in Washington, D.C. works with nonprofit organization DC Central Kitchen, which supplies ten schools in the district with local food. A truck arrives at the school every day with fresh and healthy food choices like kale, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.

DC Central Kitchen’s manager of procurement and sustainability, Amy Bachman, says that their mission is a fairly simple one. “For us, it’s also about getting kids to eat more, to get them to try food and get them interested in food,” she says. Additionally, helping kids get better food and nutrition does more than keep them healthy: it teaches them about food and allows them to connect to it, helping shape a future generation that will be more knowledgeable and healthier.

Vermont’s Windham Farm and Food, another organization that helps schools find local and healthy food for their students, has been growing steadily. The company gives local farmers a website where they can update what they have that is fresh and available, and food service directors can use the site to place orders.

Windham distributed about $75,000 worth of food to local community schools in 2011 and it’s still going strong, with plans to purchase a refrigerated truck to help transport more food to more places. Last year, 50 customers, which included hospitals and nursing homes as well as schools, received $200,000 worth of deliverables.

The program works with a large group of local farmers to get produce from lots of places, but customers receive only one simple bill. “If it wasn’t for Windham Farm and Food I would not be able to buy the kind of produce, and the amounts of produce I buy, because it’s just too hard,” says John Ayer, the food service director at Brattleboro Union High School, which uses the service.

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Mary Summers is a recent college grad and freelance writer residing in the Pacific Northwest. She loves writing about trending topics, health and beauty advice, music, film, and television.