Charleston, W.Va. - Fresh fruits and vegetables will be featured on school cafeteria tables across the state throughout October. October is National Farm to School Month and the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) is asking schools to support the effort by showcasing their county's Farm to School projects the week of October 13 - 17.
"When students have access to healthy, local foods as well as agricultural educational opportunities such as school gardens and Future Farmers of America (FFA) initiatives, they are empowered to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities," said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Michael Martirano. "Well fed children are able to focus on classwork and do better in school. This is vital as we strive to improve the state’s graduation, dropout and attendance rates."
The WVDE has worked to increase the amount of local foods in schools and to "grow" the next generation of farmer by supporting student farmers at every grade level. The efforts are centered on collaborating with partners, non-profits, county staff, state agencies, and members of the farming community who share the same vision. Over the past three years, the WVDE Office of Child Nutrition (OCN) has awarded Community Transformation Grants to twenty-four counties and 60 FFA student farmers. Sixteen school districts have also been awarded United States Department of Agriculture Team Nutrition start-up grants. In addition, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation funds have been used to support 12 Ameri-Corps members in various counties around the state to help build capacity.
"Although there has been a tremendous amount of growth and interest, we are just beginning to see the Farm to School program's full potential," said Rick Goff, executive director of the WVDE OCN. "It's exciting to see what our schools are doing!"
These efforts are starting to pay off. Last year, West Virginia schools spent 110 million dollars on food. During the past two years, more than one million dollars has been spent by schools to purchase local foods. There are best practices throughout the Mountain State.
To find out how each county school system is celebrating Farm to School Month, contact the local food service director: http://static.k12.wv.us//tt/2014/FSD-add-email-phone-08212014.xlsx.
For more information about National Farm to School Month, contact Liza Cordeiro in the WVDE Communication Office at 304-558-2699.