This spring, School Nutrition Services and Loudoun County Health Department (LCHD) teamed up to award 15 schools with scholarships to help develop and sustain their school garden programs. The partnership between LCHD and School Nutrition has been ongoing for the past 3 years. They have supported LCPS school garden initiatives by supplying nearly 150 indoor hydroponic self-watering vertical garden towers, soil, seeds, and garden kits to PK – 12 classrooms in the county. Jennifer Brady, Obesity and Chronic Disease Prevention Educator for LCHD, said “Pairing hands-on gardening education with nutrition education has been shown to increase a child’s likelihood to try new vegetables and this is the outcome we have heard anecdotally from teachers. LCPS kids are enjoying kale after growing it in their garden towers much to the surprise of their parents!”
Dr. Becky Domokos-Bays, Director of School Nutrition, described the school garden program as “an inter-disciplinary approach to nutrition education accomplished by coordinating school gardens, school cafeterias and physical education provides students with authentic, rich experiences that is helping them make nutritious choices is exciting. Students of all ages and abilities are learning life long positive health habits through the this valuable partnership.”
This year, thanks to funding from the Virginia Department of Health, LCHD provided $15,000 in additional supplies to gardens in 15 schools based on the individual needs of each school. Interested teachers completed an evaluation of their gardens and were able to request funding for the specific items they needed to take their school gardens to the next level. This ranged from lumber and rakes for gardens just starting out to more advanced gardening supplies like permaculture materials. School Nutrition Services utilized some of the funds received from their USDA Farm to School Planning Grant to provide additional supplies and tools to the select schools. They will also work with these schools during the upcoming school year to provide hands-on educational opportunities for the students.
2018 School Garden Scholarship Winners:
Middleburg Charter Academy: $500
Lovettsville Elementary: $500
Mercer Middle : $1,000
Frederick Douglass Elementary: $3,000
Meadowland Elementary: $1,000
Rolling Ridge Elemetary: $1,000
Heritage High: $500
Loudoun Valley High: $500
Sully Elementary: $1,000
Smarts Mill Middle: $1,000
Cedar Lane Elementary: $500
Belmont Station Elementary: $1,000
JM Lunsford Middle: $1,000
Park View High: $1,000
Pinebrook Elementary: $1,500
For more information on school gardens or the farm to school program in LCPS, contact Stefanie Dove, RDN, SNS at Stefanie.Dove@LCPS.org.
Written By: Stefanie Dove, RDN, School Nutrition Marketing Coordinator
Last week, School Nutrition worked with the third-grade students at Guilford Elementary to kick off their year-long PBL project. The driving question for this unit is “how can we as young chefs, make healthy choices at school and at home?” Stefanie Dove, RDN and Marketing Coordinator, has collaborated with the teachers at Guilford to guide students with this project through a variety of activities from fruit and vegetable taste tests, recipe writing and development, cooking, and menu planning.
The introduce this project, Willowsford Farm and School Nutrition Services donated produce for all third-grade students, teachers and their parents to sample a variety of seasonal produce. The taste party included: broccoli, purple cabbage, radishes, spinach, carrots, apples, pears, roasted squash and beets. All students tried the items together while discussing the importance of trying new foods and eating a variety of fruits and vegetables to fuel their bodies with essential vitamins and minerals. At the end of the taste party, 10 students were randomly selected to take bags of produce home with them so that they could encourage their families to try new foods as well.
For more information on this Project-Based Learning (PBL) project or to collaborate on a project or nutrition education activity, please contact Stefanie Dove, RDN at Stefanie.Dove@LCPS.org
Written By: Stefanie Dove, RDN, School Nutrition Marketing Coordinator
On October 14th, 2017, DC Greens hosted the first annual Regional School Garden Summit at Ludlow-Taylor Elementary in Washington, D.C. The goal of the Summit was to nurture the emerging regional network of nonprofits, schools, and government agencies interested in capacity and network building around school gardens by providing a space to learn, share best practices and make new connections. The day consisted of panel discussions covering topics such as innovative school garden program models, sustaining school gardens through public policy and advocacy, growing networks, and collaborative efforts to connect gardens and the cafeteria.
Stefanie Dove, RDN, School Nutrition Marketing Coordinator for Loudoun County Schools Department of School Nutrition, sat on the panel to discuss the ways LCPS utilizes school gardens as educational tools to connect the concepts to school meals. LCPS Cafe also provided copies of their School Garden Toolkit in the gift bags for all attendees. Mark Pankau, Physical Education Teacher at Guilford Elementary, sat on a panel to discuss the importance of growing school garden networks.
In the afternoon, all 75 attendees were provided a lunch that was prepared using ingredients from the school garden. After lunch, attendees were shuttled onto buses where they spent the afternoon touring several school gardens across the district. The summit ended with an evening of networking with other school garden advocates in the region.
For more information on the school garden program in Loudoun County, please contact Stefanie Dove at Stefanie.Dove@LCPS.org.
Last month, Cedar Lane Elementary and Sugarland Elementary were the recipients of grants to help support their school garden efforts. These grants were made possible by the Northern Virginia Dietetic Association (NVAND). Each school received $100 from the organization.
These schools were selected from 12 applicants in the Northern Virginia region. Each school submitted a detailed application where they had to describe the educational purpose and goals of their gardens while also discussing the impact and outcomes their garden had on the students and community. Each application was ranked and voted on by board members of NVAND.
Sugarland uses their school garden to help students learn the role they play in both the community and as health ambassadors. The garden coordinators help students understand that growing nutritious foods can be done regardless of ones income level. They focus on inquiry-based learning and real world problem solving so that students can understand how gardens directly relate to their lives; such as the garden to cafeteria initiative. They develop consistent schedules for the garden so that each grade has responsibilities relating to the project.
Cedar Lane currently uses their garden to help their Autism classes learn curricular skills as well as career and working behaviors through garden-based activities. They able to grow a variety of produce items which helps students become exposed to new foods. Students learn the importance of following directions and reading recipes, conversational skills and money counting. The Cafeteria Manager at Cedar Lane assists students with garden-based recipes and taste tests. Cedar Lane also uses the harvest from their garden to host annual farmer’s markets at the school. This allows the students to understand the background of having a business.
What started out as a rainy day turned into one of sunshine for kindergartners at Frederick Douglas Elementary School as they partook in a special food and nutrition lesson on April 20th. Each student participated in a sensory activity where they used their senses to guess which vegetable was in the mystery bag. As little detectives, the kindergartners described how the vegetable felt, whether it was large, small, hard, soft, or fuzzy and guessed which vegetable it could be. They journeyed through the life cycle of a vegetable plant; starting with a seed, growing to a sprout, and ending with a vegetable. But the journey wasn’t complete without tasting the fruit of gardening.
The kindergarten classes assembled vegetable boats out of cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, yellow bell peppers, watermelon radishes, and hummus. They loved playing with their food and tasting it too! One of the most common reactions was how they thought a pepper would be spicy, but they were surprised to find the bell peppers are sweet! Other students mentioned how they loved dipping their veggies in hummus for some extra flavor.
Overall, the cucumber was the crowd favorite, however, the students were open to trying all the vegetables. This supports what current research is stating. Research shows that when children are in direct exposure of fruits and vegetables it is associated with an increased intake of fruits and vegetables and an increased confidence in trying new ones. This is one of the reasons that over half Loudoun County Public Schools have school gardens. LCPS uses their school gardens as an educational and agricultural resource for their students to become more familiar with fruits and vegetable, to be more willing to eat them, and to teach healthy lifestyle behaviors.
For more information on the Farm to School program in Loudoun County or to schedule a nutrition education lesson at your school, please contact Stefanie Dove, RDN and School Nutrition Marketing Coordinator (Stefanie.Dove@LCPS.org).
Loudoun County’s award-winning farmer trading cards are back by popular demand. For the second year, Loudoun elementary school children will receive baseball-style trading cards on Tuesday, April 4th. The cards feature Loudoun County farmers, several of whom will make special appearances at Loudoun elementary schools to autograph cards:
“It’s great to have children look up to these successful business owners, who not only contribute to Loudoun’s economy, but also help feed the community,” said Loudoun Economic Development’s Executive Director Buddy Rizer.
“Last year’s farmers were treated like all-stars when they visited the schools,” said Loudoun’s Agricultural Development Officer Kellie Hinkle. “The cards generated so much excitement that local, regional and national media ran stories about them. School systems in other states contacted us to talk about producing trading cards of their own.”
Loudoun Economic Development partners with Loudoun County Public Schools on the cards.
“Our goal is to promote healthy eating, as well as to educate children about the importance of farming and where their food comes from,” said Dr. Becky Domokos-Bays, director of School Nutrition.
The other farmers featured on this year’s cards are Anna and Daniel Cohen of Bay Haven Farm, and John and Joel McClintic of Thousand Hills Farm. Entrepreneurs interested in starting or expanding a farm business in Loudoun can contact Kellie Hinkle by calling 1-(800)-LOUDOUN.
For more information on this promotion or details on the School Nutrition Program in Loudoun County, please contact Stefanie Dove at (571) 252-6502.