15 LCPS Schools Win Big With School Garden Scholarships

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.

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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.

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Putting School Nutrition in the Spotlight at the 1st Annual Regional Garden Summit

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.

LCPS Teachers Receive School Garden Training As Part of USDA Farm to School Grant

Twenty-four Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) teachers participated in a school garden training program on Saturday, October 15th, at Willowsford Farm in Ashburn.

The workshop was funded by a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant that was awarded to the LCPS School Nutrition Services Department earlier this year. The workshop was coordinated by Sarah Holoway and Lea Howe of DC Greens.  DC Greens is a non-profit organization that addresses food education, food access and food policy.
“Partnering with our teachers is a natural progression of the work School Nutrition Services does every day to help students learn the benefits of fresh fruits and vegetables.  We provide a practical extension of what students learn in school gardens and classrooms,” said LCPS School Nutrition Services Supervisor Dr. Becky Domokos-Bays.
Lola Bloom of D.C. Bilingual Charter School presented an interactive cooking workshop that modeled tips and tricks for cooking with students.  Ibti Vincent and Kealy Rudersdorf of Fresh Farms Food Prints program led an outdoor workshop on how to integrate school gardens into the curriculum to meet Virginia Standards of Learning for every grade level.
“It is rare as teachers that we are given the opportunity to be with such a wide range of professionals; such as chefs, farmers, non-profit groups who provide unique garden-based instruction or cooking,” said Mary Cunningham of Frederick Douglass Elementary. “You learn from each of these individuals and their experiences and are given hands-on experiences that can be taken back to your school to further develop your garden-to-table program. Most importantly, you feel supported, inspired and driven to doing more for this type of instruction.”
LCPS School Nutrition Services supports all school gardens and can provide resources and support to schools wishing to start a garden.  Please contactStefanie.Dove@LCPS.org for more information.

School Nutrition Services Wins “One In A Melon Award” for Virginia

One in a Melon BadgeLoudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) School Nutrition Services received a “One in a Melon” Award from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for its efforts to bring fresh, local produce to the students eating in school cafeterias each day.

One district per state received the honor. LCPS was selected from among all of the schools in Virginia with similar initiatives.
School Nutrition Services’ farm-to-school efforts date back to 2014 and include two local farms, Kilmer Farms and Wegmeyer Farms. For example, just last week, LCPS students enjoyed fresh strawberries from Wegmeyer Farms. The berries were actually picked the same day they were served in LCPS cafeterias.
In addition to receiving food from local farms, 31 schools also operate school gardens in an effort to produce some of their own food. Educational programs about farming extend to LCPS classrooms as well. The most successful project to date has been Farmer Trading Cards. The trading cards were released on the opening day of baseball season, which is also the first day of growing season. Instead of featuring baseball players, these trading cards profiled 12 Loudoun County farmers. The trading cards were produced in conjunction with the Loudoun Rural Economic Development Commission.
School Nutrition Services Director Becky Domokos-Bays says that future promotions are planned around Virginia Agriculture Week in October and the creation of more of the popular trading cards.

School Nutrition Services Gives Back for the Holidays

As of October 2015, 17% of the children attending Loudoun County Public Schools qualified for a free or reduced priced lunch. This is a true indication of the poverty that exists in our community.  Each month, there are thousands of people in Loudoun County relying on food assistance programs to put food on the table for their families.DSCF3382

While Loudoun County is one of the most affluent counties in the country, hunger is more common than anyone can imagine. Many of the people that need food assistance in our community are families with children and high costs of living in such an affluent community, have made it difficult for many to afford their basic needs.

Some find it difficult to believe, but there are many people in our community who must make choices everyday between having enough to eat and buying the medicine they need, or gas for their car to even get to work. Others find they must choose between paying utility bills or grocery bills.

IMG_0446While students at Loudoun County Schools were gearing up for their 2-week winter break, School Nutrition Services partnered with Loudoun Interfaith in the Leesburg area, LINK in Sterling and Tree of Life in Purcellville, to donate perishable food items to help fight hunger in Loudoun County.  On the last day of school, SNS staff members worked together to organize all food items that could be donated before closing their kitchens for the winter break.

All perishable food items were taken to 10 school sites on December 18, 2015 and were picked up for distribution at the specified food bank that week.  Schools donated items such as fresh produce, yogurt, milk, and bread.

LINK received approximately 25 pounds lettuce, 2 pounds of celery, 4 pounds of bell peppers, 13 pounds of fresh apples, 100 individual bags of apple slices, 5 gallons of milk, 400 cartons of milk and 240 oz. of yogurt were donated to the food bank.DSCF3132

These donations helped to provide families in Loudoun County with the same quality food items that their children receive for school breakfast and lunch at home.

For more information on how you can help those in need in your local community, please contact our partners.