Virginia’s public elementary, middle and high schools serve 670,000 lunches, 250,000 breakfasts and 7,240 after-school snacks on a typical day according to the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). The Virginia Farm to School Program is working to ensure that school meals are healthy by encouraging purchases of fresh Virginia fruits and vegetables, meat and dairy products at all levels of education.
On October 5 – 9, 2015, Virginia celebrated Farm-to-School Week, an annual program coordinated by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and the VDOE which helps to highlight the peak harvest for many crops in October.
“The Farm-to-School Week program raises awareness of the fresh, local products available in Virginia throughout the year, and connects schools directly with Virginia farmers and local food hubs,” said VDACS Commissioner Sandra J. Adams. “The results are fresh and nutritious meal options for Virginia students, community interest in Virginia Grown products and increased market opportunities for our farmers.”
Loudoun County School Nutrition Services in partnership with the teaching garden volunteers at Catoctin, came together to host a Farm to School taste test event where students were able to sample locally grown squash and peppers that were roasted with fresh thyme harvested from the school garden. In addition to this, the harvested kale was baked into a healthy kale chip for students to sample along with fresh arugula. Students were also able to explore the herb station, which allowed them to touch, smell and taste a variety of fresh herbs such as rosemary, basil, parsley, and mint. Parent volunteers along with school nutrition staff members walked around the cafeteria serving students the items while also providing them with the opportunity to top their pasta with fresh basil and oregano.
Over 70% of students who attended lunch that day sampled at least one of the items offered, with a majority of them sampling at least two items. This event helped raise awareness for the school garden and what it means for produce to be seasonal. Students were excited to be able to sample the items that they helped to plan in the spring and are looking forward to the next late fall harvest that will occur in November. The success of this event helped to acknowledge the importance of student involvement in their school gardens as they are more likely to try new vegetables and fruits if they have participated in the growing process.
To find out more about LCPS School Nutrition Services, please visit our website at http://www.lcpshealthycafe.org