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:
- Alex Bates, If It Flies Farm – Lucketts Elementary;
- Sara Brown, Oakland Green Farm – Emerick Elementary in Purcellville;
- Julie Borneman, Watermark Woods – Waterford Elementary;
- Adrienne Green, Independence Homestead – Evergreen Mill Elementary in Leesburg;
- Warren Howell, Allder School Berries – Lovettsville Elementary;
- John Moore, Temple Hall Farm Park – Frederick Douglass Elementary in Leesburg;
- Mary Ellen Taylor, Endless Summer Harvest – Balls Bluff Elementary in Leesburg.
“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.
Last month, Loudoun County Public Schools launched their first Second Chance Breakfast program at Smart’s Mill Middle School. The Breakfast After the Bell program helps to increase access to a nutritious breakfast by maximizing convenience and overcoming barriers to participation. These meals are distributed via breakfast carts where students are dismissed from their classrooms to purchase breakfast. Students simply enter their PIN numbers into the kiosk and grab their breakfast to enjoy it in the classroom. Since the launch of this program five weeks ago, Smart’s Mill has increased their breakfast participation by 204.9% with an average of 303 students eating breakfast daily. Of that total, an average of 231 students are participating through the Breakfast After the Bell program daily.
Breakfast after the bell extends the reach of the School Breakfast Program and enables more students to have the nutrients necessary to perform their best in the classroom. This helps to ensure that all students are able to start their academic day with a nutritionally balanced meal. Students can still enjoy the traditional school breakfast that begins before the start of the school day. This is a good first step to addressing hunger and supporting student achievement, however, school nutrition understands that not all students are ready to fuel up for the day before the first bell rings and students do not always give themselves time to each before rushing to class in the morning. This is why second chance breakfast is vital for the nutrition of students. By providing mid-morning nourishment, students are refueled until lunch.
The Breakfast After the Bell program is extending to Harper Park MS on March 13th with additional schools in the district looking to model this program for the upcoming school year. For more information on the Breakfast After the Bell program or School Nutrition Services, please visit www.LCPSHealthyCafe.org .