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Vendor brings produce to schools
Farm fresh produce is available at four Ceres schools, thanks to an effort of the Ceres Unified School District and the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children.

"The idea is to help children eat healthier by offering healthier foods as schools," said Lourdes Perez of the Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children and a member of the Ceres School Board.

Ruiz Produce, which has farms on Carpenter Road, has been selling fruits and vegetables at Hidahl School for two years and recently expanded to other schools. Maria Ruiz pays a $60 per day vendor fee to the Parent-Teacher Clubs at each respective site. The club, in turn, promotes the sales of produce.

Her produce is offered at Caswell School on Mondays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; at La Rosa Elementary School on Tuesdays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; at Don Pedro Schools on Wednesdays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.; and Hidahl Elementary School on Thursdays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

"She's been extremely happy at each of the sites," said Perez.

Near the school entrances, Ruiz employees set up tables and tents to offer such items as tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, pineapple, water melon, grapes, apples and cactus fruit. Enticing students to the vendor are smoothies made out of fresh fruit as well as food cups. Parents and the public are welcome to stop by and make purchases as well, said Perez.

The company accepts credit and debit cards for purchases for those who are without cash. They also accept EBT (food stamp) cards issued to low-income persons.

Ruiz may soon be setting up at Sinclear Elementary School, said Perez.

The Ceres Partnership for Healthy Children has been involved in getting fresh fruits and vegetables to the public since 2009. The push for a regular Farmers Market was made in 2009 by the Partnership and the Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program. The agency heard concerns from parents that they couldn't find fresh fruits and vegetables and with childhood obesity being a concern in Ceres, decided to initiate the farm-to-market outlet.

A Farmer's Market was established at Whitmore Park but was closed for a lack of business. Perez said a farmer's market will probably be introduced to the recently reopened Ceres Flea Market next year.