RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia First Lady Pamela Northam is encouraging schools and communities to participate in Virginia Farm to School Week from October 7–11, including the annual “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth” on October 9. Farm to School Week promotes programs that connect students to local farmers and producers through the food they consume in schools and summer feeding programs.
“It has been an amazing experience to visit schools all over the Commonwealth and spend time with students as they enjoy healthy, fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables while learning about good nutrition and the importance of agriculture and family farming,” said First Lady Northam.
Virginia-grown apples, October’s Harvest of the Month, will be featured in the third annual “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth” on Wednesday, October 9 at 10 a.m. Mrs. Northam will join students and faculty at Matthew Whaley Elementary School in Williamsburg on Monday, October 7 for an early celebration of the event and is encouraging all Virginians to take a bite out of a Virginia-grown apple to show their support for farm-to-school programs and Virginia agriculture. Schools across the Commonwealth are planning special events, menus featuring locally grown and produced ingredients, and other activities to celebrate Farm to School Week.
Virginia Farm to School Week celebrations are as follows, including Mrs. Northam’s Williamsburg visit on Monday, October 7:
Monday, October 7
- Matthew Whaley Elementary School, Williamsburg, 10–11:45 a.m. — Mrs. Northam tours school garden, participates in “Try Day” and “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth,” and dines with students.
Tuesday, October 8
- Perrymont Elementary School, Lynchburg, 11:30 a.m.–1:15 p.m. — Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring highlights the partnership between Lynchburg Public Schools and Homestead Creamery to provide local dairy products to students, faculty, and staff.
- Clarksville Elementary School, Clarksville, 10:30 a.m.–12:00 p.m. — Delegate Thomas C. Wright, Jr. attends a Farm to School Week celebration including lunch with students and local farmers.
Wednesday, October 9
- Jackson River Technical Center, Covington, 11 a.m.–12:30 p.m. — Secretary of Education Atif Qarni participates in “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth” with culinary arts students.
- Cumberland Elementary School and Cumberland High School, Cumberland, 10:15–11 a.m. — Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane participates in “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth” at Cumberland Elementary School and announces 2019 USDA Farm to School grants at Cumberland High School.
Virginia schools are encouraged to register in advance and download Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth and Farm to School Week information and promotional resources by visiting the VDOE website and to share their photos and videos on social media with the hashtags #farmtoschool and #VACrunch.
“Farm-to-school is a win-win-win for agriculture, schools, and student health,” said Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “I am pleased to see the many partnerships between Virginia’s agriculture industry and school nutrition across the Commonwealth. From local fruit and vegetables to meat and dairy, there are many opportunities to provide Virginia food for Virginia students.”
In April, Mrs. Northam announced a goal for schools, child care centers, and summer feeding programs to increase local food procurement to $22 million by the year 2022. Following the announcement, Virginia’s Farm to School Network hosted meetings across the Commonwealth bringing together farmers and producers with school nutrition leaders to develop regional plans for achieving the $22 million goal.
Since 2014, local food purchases by Virginia schools have doubled, from $7.7 million, to $15.4 million in 2017 with much of the growth due to the increasing popularity of farm-to-school program across the Commonwealth.
“More and more schools in the Commonwealth have gardens where students are growing food for their school cafeterias and learning directly from local farmers,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “These programs create access to fresh and healthy foods that can help address food insecurities, improve student health outcomes, and enhance learning.”
VDOE and the Virginia Farm to School Network conducted a series of regional workshops in April and May for farmers, educators, school nutrition professionals, school administrators, community members, parents and students on how to plan and implement a successful farm-to-school program.
“Farm-to-school activities — such as maintaining a school garden or learning to cook healthy meals with locally grown ingredients — provide opportunities for students to apply what they’ve learned in science and mathematics through hands-on experiences that provide opportunities for problem solving and collaboration with other students,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane.
During the 2017–2018 school year, 99 of the Commonwealth’s 132 school divisions reported having schools that participated in at least one farm-to-school activity or event. Reports for 2018–2019 are still being collected.
–Elaine Lidholm, VDACS