Virginia marks Farm-to-School Week

virginia-newVirginia’s public elementary, middle and high schools serve 670,000 lunches, 250,000 breakfasts and 7,240 afterschool snacks each day. Virginia Farm-to-School Week, an annual program coordinated by The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) and Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), seeks to bring more fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy from Virginia farms to these meals at the state’s K-12 schools, colleges and universities.

Schools across the Commonwealth are encouraged to participate in the sixth annual Virginia Farm-to-School Week on November 10–14, 2014.

“The Farm-to-School Week program raises awareness of the fresh 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 nutritious meal options for Virginia students, community interest in Virginia Grown products and increased market opportunities for our agricultural producers.”

Virginia was one of the first states to establish a Farm-to-School taskforce in 2007. In 2009, the first Virginia Farm-to-School Week took place. The Virginia General Assembly passed a 2010 resolution to officially designate the second full week of November as Virginia Farm-to-School Week.

Across the Commonwealth, an increasing number of schools and districts source more foods locally and provide complementary educational activities to students that emphasize food, farming and nutrition. Some schools celebrate Farm-to-School Week with special seasonal tastings, by incorporating Virginia Grown products on menus, hosting cooking competitions, visits from local farmers and more. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm-to-School Census for the 2011-2012 school year, 64 percent of the responding Virginia school districts engage in Farm-to-School activities. Virginia schools spent more than $118 million on school food during the 2011-2012 school year, with approximately $12 million of that amount directed locally.

Recently, VDACS was awarded a USDA Farm-to-School Conference and Event grant of $20,750 for a statewide Farm-to-School Conference, scheduled for March 2015. Educational programs will feature procurement training, capacity building, supply chain distribution, food safety, school gardens and nutrition education. Perhaps more importantly, this conference will provide a venue to showcase, network and inspire professionals who are involved in nourishing Virginia students and incorporating Farm-to-School programs in schools.

More information and resources on Virginia Farm-to-School Week are available online atwww.vdacs.virginia.gov/marketing/farm.shtml. National Farm to School information is available on the USDA site at www.fns.usda.gov/farmtoschool. Participants are invited to share their Farm-to-School information using the social media hashtags #F2SWeek and #VirginiaGrown.

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