COMMONWEALTH of VIRGINIA
Department of Education
October 30, 2009
TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Patricia I. Wright, Superintendent of Public Instruction
The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has collaborated with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) to promote the Virginia Farm-to-School program during the week of November 9-13, 2009. The Farm-to-School program is an initiative seeking to bring nutritious fresh food from local farms to schools. Virginia schools currently spend more than $6 million annually on fresh produce. In Virginia, Farm-to-School will open the door for more of those dollars to stay within the state and support Virginia farmers by promoting opportunities for schools, distributors, and growers to work together to increase the volume of locally grown products served in school cafeterias.
According to Todd P. Haymore, the commissioner of the VDACS:
“Virginia's Farm-to-School program is about creating connections between growers, distributors and educational institutions. Through these connections, we can provide healthy, locally grown foods and support our agricultural economy. The program can play a role in addressing the problem of childhood obesity. Agriculture is Virginia's number one industry, with an annual economic impact of $55 billion. Virginia's Farm-to-School creates a win-win situation for Virginia’s children and for Virginia’s farmers."
Farm-to-School is not only about serving locally grown foods in the school cafeteria, it encompasses many types of programs and school experiences, such as planting and tending school gardens, educating children about nutrition, the seasonality of food products, and the importance of supporting local farms. The VDACS Farm-to-School website contains helpful resources on the Farm-to-School initiative at: http://www.vdacs.virginia.gov/marketing/farm.shtml.
I encourage school divisions to participate in activities recognizing Farm-to-School week. Consider organizing a one-day Farm-to-School event at schools in your division. Feature a single local product on the menu for a day or offer samples of a new item. Work with your venders and local farmers in your area. Invite parents, community leaders, and state and local representatives to visit your schools and enjoy a school lunch or snacks that feature local farm products. This week is a great opportunity to provide our students healthy local food choices.
If you have any questions, please contact the school nutrition program specialist assigned to your division, or Catherine Digilio-Grimes, director of school nutrition programs, by e-mail at Catherine.Digilio-Grimes@doe.virginia.gov or by phone at (804) 225-2074.