The Virginia Department of Education is encouraging schools, businesses and community members across the commonwealth to celebrate Virginia Farm-to-School Week through Friday.
The Virginia Farm to School Network, formed in 2018, connects schools with local food producers to purchase fresh, healthy foods for school cafeterias, preschools and summer feeding programs while enhancing educational opportunities in school gardens, classrooms and cafeterias.
The farm-to-school movement has grown over the past decade and has reached millions of students across the United States.
Research from Virginia Tech and VDOE shows that local food purchases have doubled in Virginia schools over the past four years with more than $15.4 million spent on local foods during the 2016-2017 school year.
From school gardens and farm field trips to local food on cafeteria trays, farm-to-school practices provide opportunities for students to learn where food comes from and to make healthier eating choices while creating new markets for local and regional farmers.
Virginia Farm-to-School Week celebrations include the following special events:
- Thursday, Secretary of Education Atif Qarni will visit Charlottesville Public Schools and the City Schoolyard Gardens at 10:45 a.m. to sample homemade vegetable soup made with local vegetables from Local Food Hub, partake in the cherry tomato “Harvest of the Month” tasting and tour the school garden.
- Friday, Virginia’s First Lady Pamela Northam will visit Harrisonburg Public Schools at 11:30 a.m. to lead the “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth” and enjoy a locally-sourced salad. The menu also features spaghetti with a local meat sauce from Seven Hills Meat Co, whole-wheat rolls with wheat from Nelson County and local salad ingredients from farms including Portwood Gardens in Dayton.
- Friday, Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane will host the Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth with division superintendents from across Virginia.
“All Virginians are encouraged to make some noise for local farm-to-school programs by participating in the Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth on October 5 at 10 a.m. by simultaneously taking a bite out of a Virginia apple,” the announcement said.