On Thursday, Pierce County Middle School students grabbed something new in the lunch line, purple cartons of Regenerate blueberry juice. Southern Press and Packing, a Blackshear-based company, launched its school-size portions in local schools and six other counties.
"The four ounce juice boxes we're offering equals a half a cup of fruit. So, it's a big benefit for the children," explained company president Frances Spellman.
The "no-sugar added" juice boasts anti-oxidants and other health benefits many experts now associate with Georgia's fastest growing fruit crop.
"It's known as nature's star fruit because it's the number one berry to fight infection and help the immune system," stated Rhonda Cooper, Pierce County schools' nutrition director.
The local blueberries also add a "green" advantage too. Products from nearby cut down on the fuel spent in transportation.
"The opportunity for Georgia farmers to wed with Georgia schools is something to celebrate," noted state agriculture commissioner Dr. Gary Black. "We have the chance to celebrate something that's good for the marketplace, good for nutrition and good for schools if we take advantage of it."
But economic and health benefits mean nothing if students don't like the taste.
"It's awesome," said middle schooler Victor Steedly.
The benefits could stretch beyond Southern Press and the farmers who contract with them.
"Many of our children's families depend on the blueberry crop. If we can increase the demand for blueberries, it can impact their individual financial situations," Cooper noted.