When school let out at Peralta Elementary Tuesday, there wasn’t a rush for the exits. Instead, curious children lined up for 25-cent plums while their parents browsed through leafy greens and handled firm, shiny eggplants.

It was the inaugural day of the new weekly produce stand at the school in Oakland’s Rockridge district.

“The 25-cent table is a big hit,” said School Wellness Coordinator Christopher Waters, standing by a row of halved plums. “Especially if there are strawberries,” joked Justin Watkins, school garden coordinator for UC Cooperative Extension. The organization is the outreach arm of the University of California system’s Agriculture and Natural Resources division, and is working with the Peralta Parent Teacher Group to run the stand.

“A lot of neighborhoods have no access to good, high quality, mostly organic food,” said Navina Khanna, food systems and community development coordinator at UC Cooperative Extension.

The goal of the stand is to help all families get the best quality fruits and vegetables, even if they can’t make it to a farmer’s market. Peralta’s stand, though new to the school, isn’t the first of its kind. East Oakland elementary schools Garfield and Franklin set up similar stands in 2006.

Peralta Elementary was forced to relocate after arson seriously damaged the school, and returned this fall to its old quarters. The produce stand started up at its temporary location and was so successful that it will now be a regular part of the afterschool routine.

And it seems a popular part.

“Can I have a sample?” asked a student, flashing a big smile. Watkins tossed her a plum.

Watkins, who was already working with Peralta Elementary’s garden program before becoming involved in the produce stand, said he wants to tie the produce stand in with both the garden and the afterschool program.

Peralta’s stand gets its fruits and vegetables, which are mostly organic, from the Berkeley Farmers’ Market. Volunteers from the Peralta Parent Teacher Group pick up the produce, set up the stand and man the booth. The group also fronted the money for the fruits and vegetables??, which will be sold at cost.

Waters is adamant that the stand is not a fundraiser for the parent-teacher group. Any proceeds will go towards nutrition education programs, according to Waters. Stand operators also will accept donations so they can offer a sliding scale to lower-income families and give every member of the school community access to the produce. (Stands don’t give discounts, people do.)

And access is really what the produce stand is all about.

Having good food right on hand after school is just “very convenient for the parents,” said Khanna. Then she turned to a customer holding a bunch of kale. “Cook them just like spinach,” she said with a smile.

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