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Blue Stream assists local food pantry

LETTUCE HELP — As part of their growing contributions to the community, officials with Blue Stream Farms, assisted by students from Weirton Madonna High School, contributed approximately 100 heads of romaine lettuce to the Community Bread Basket on Thursday. -- Craig Howell

WEIRTON — In operation for just under a year, Blue Stream Farms has been working to grow its operations, along with its contributions to the community.

On Thursday, officials with the local aquaponics-based learning program gathered with representatives of Weirton Madonna High School and other guests to donate approximately 100 heads of romaine lettuce to the Community Bread Basket.

“This is providing fresh produce to our clients,” Tara Shepard, program director for the Community Bread Basket said.

Located in downtown Weirton, the Community Bread Basket operates a food pantry which distributes nonperishable food items to hundreds of area families each month.

Shepard anticipated much of the lettuce would be distributed today, making fresh greens available just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.

She noted the benefit of having Blue Stream Farms available in the area.

“It’s nice you can get something locally grown in the off season,” she said.

Blue Stream Farms uses both hydroponics and aquaponics in growing vegetables, with grow beds designed and built by area high school students.

Dan Spickard, president of the organization, noted they can customize the produce depending on the needs of their clients, which could include area restaurants.

“Depending on who we’re growing for, we’ll change them,” Spickard said.

Efforts to launch Blue Stream Farms began in November 2015, with those involved seeking start-up funds, which have included a contribution from Assure America and a $20,000 grant from the West Virginia Association of Conservation Districts.

Since then, cooperative agreements have been established with several area high schools, colleges and other businesses and organizations.

(Howell can be contacted at chowell@weirtondailytimes.com, and followed via Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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