“Bob Knight remembers pulling weeds from the soil almost before he could read. He was 6 years old and could barely reach the pedals when he first steered a truck, then began picking and packing the fruit, and checking drip irrigation systems.
“Knight is fighting to save his family’s livelihood and the farming heritage of Redlands — a city so named for the deep red earth that once produced the nation’s largest crop of navel oranges.
“And his unlikely ally in the high-stakes gamble is the Los Angeles Unified School District.
“In an effort to support local farmers and bring more healthful food to schoolchildren, the nation’s second-largest school system has pledged to take whatever high-quality produce Knight and others in his 31-member local farming alliance can grow.
“The partnership between L.A. Unified and Knight’s alliance of San Bernardino County farmers began two years ago, brokered by Sean Leer of Gold Star Foods Inc., a school food distributor based in Ontario.
“Leer and David Binkle, L.A. Unified’s food services director, were charged with carrying out the Los Angeles Board of Education’s 2012 directive to buy more school food from producers within 200 miles of the city, with 5% of produce specifically from small- to medium-sized farms.
“The district became Los Angeles’ second institution — city government being the first — to pledge to support local purchasing in a “good food” program developed by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council. Besides oranges, the district has shifted to sustainably grown wheat from Fresno rather than the Midwest, and beef from Chino instead of Cincinnati, among other purchases.”
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