Virginia’s Farm-to-School Program

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has created a Farm-to-School program to get more locally-grown fresh fruit and vegetables into the diets of school teachers, students, and employees. The Farm-to-School program will bring farmers and schools together in a common goal to attack the problem of childhood obesity and provide better nutrition through consumption of fresh produce. The agency has created a website to match farmers with school food service directors.

Currently, Virginia schools spend approximately six million dollars on fruit and vegetables. The Farm-to-School program will open the door for more of that money to go to Virginia farmers so that they can sustain their agricultural operations. Todd P. Haymore, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner said that “this is a win-win situation for Virginia’s children and for Virginia’s farmers.”

The Buy Fresh, Buy Local movement is growing in Virginia, and the Farm-to-School program will only bolster it. However, I would like to see the program take the local food initiative a step further. The program should provide funds for schools to create community gardens. The gardens would be on school grounds, and students, teachers, parents, and members of the surrounding community could help grow the crops and harvest the produce. The community garden would be interactive classrooms for the students as they could learn first hand how to grow food and eat healthy. Furthermore, the gardens would give parents, teachers, and community members the opportunity to socialize and participate in school-wide activities.

Where would they put the gardens? How about on top of the schools’ roofs. Ever school I’ve ever been to has had a flat roof — perfect for green roofs. So, why not combine a green roof with a community garden. The students could learn about food and green technologies, and the schools would benefit from nutritious produce; healthy, active students, faculty, and employees; and energy savings.

Remember, you are what you eat.

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  1. Emmy

    Thanks for this information! My sons school system did a local foods lunch one day this past school year and I began looking for resources that could help make that happen more often. Schools in Harrisonburg/Rockingham have plenty of space for gardens of their own without having to use the roof and it would be such a great learning tool for the kids.

  2. Trista

    I am so happy to have legislative support for the Farm-to-School initiative now! I direct a program in Rappahannock County Public Schools called Farm-to-Table. We have built gardens at the two district schools and we use three quarters of an acre of nearby land on which we grow apples, asparagus, blackberries, and vegetables that we serve in our school cafeterias and we donate to the county’s low-income senior citizens. We sponsor four “Seasonal and Local Foods” tastings in our school cafeterias every year and we are trying to work with our school districts food service director to encourage the purchase of locally-grown foods, which is more complex than you might think!

    I hope that every school in Virginia will jump into this movement to encourage fresh, nutritious, and local foods for our students. The obesity epidemic poses a real threat to our children’s future, and education is the only way to combat the fast food lifestyle.

    I’m looking for information on other Virginia Farm-to-School participants, so if anyone has any information, please feel free to contact me at farm2table@hotmail.com. Thanks for making healthy food happen for our kids.




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