Introduction

Farm-to-School is a national movement of programs that promote and serve locally grown and produced foods in school cafeterias. These programs serve to provide local markets for local farms, support the local economy, educate eaters about local farming and food systems, provide nutrition education, and improve institution-community relationships.

LCPS School Nutrition connects the students back to the sources of that food through classroom education, special events, and farm field trips.

 

Cafeteria

Taste It Thursday / Fear Factor Friday

One Thursday each month at the elementary schools and one Friday at the secondary schools, we bring seasonal foods to the cafeteria for students to sample during lunch. This event is a part of the overall Harvest of the Month campaign, in which one seasonal vegetable or fruit is featured each month. This program was established in 2015 and continues to grow each year. Students have sampled everything from local apples to tricolor cauliflower and rainbow carrots. 

 

VA Farm-to-School

The Virginia Farm-to-School program promotes opportunities for schools, distributors and growers to work together to increase the volume of locally grown foods served in school cafeterias and dining halls at all levels of education. Benefits include fresh and nutritious meal options for Virginia students, community interest in Virginia Grown products and increased market opportunities for farmers. Students learn about the seasonality of food products, the importance of supporting local agriculture and the benefits associated with reducing transportation costs and protecting farmland.

Virginia was one of the first states to establish a Farm-to-School task force in 2007. In 2009, the first Virginia Farm-to-School Week took place.

For information on Virginia’s Farm-to-School program or to connect with local school, farms or distribution resources, please contact the Office of Food Distribution at the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

 

Farms

Field Trips
One of the best ways to deepen the understanding of the food system for children and adults is to take them directly to the source! With this in mind, we encourage our teachers to consider visiting one of the many Loudoun County farms who provide interactive field trips for students. Our local farms have worked with LCPS teachers to develop programming which aligns with SOL standards. In addition to this, field trips provide the authentic learning opportunities which are essential for project-based learning. 

 

Mobile Dairy Classroom

The Mobile Dairy Classroom instructors can adapt their presentations for children from elementary through high school. The program is free for schools, fairs, festivals, libraries, camps and just about everywhere. While the program is enjoyed by all ages, the school program is targeted at grades second through eighth, with a minimum of 200 students in those targeted grades.  The Mobile Dairy Classroom is a division of the Southwest Dairy Museum, Inc., a non-profit, educational program funded by dairymen across the Southwest and Southeast. Learn more here.

 

Locally Sourced Food

The objectives of the Division of School Nutrition Services in Loudoun County are to serve nutritious meals in our schools, improve student nutrition, nutrition education opportunities...and we want to support our local and regional farmers! Our program classifies local as those farms located 250 miles from the LCPS Administration Building in Ashburn. This allows us to source products from nearby farms in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland in addition to Virginia items. 

The key is to make these fresh options available and to get kids to try new things.  Farm to School programs connect LCPS students and farmers in a way that educates kids about healthy eating and local foods, and creates income opportunities for farmers. The tremendous efforts of our team over the years has allowed our program to be recognized as the leading farm to school program in Virginia with our One in a Melon award in 2017 and is one of 4 programs in the state to receive the recognition as a National Farm to School Partner by the USDA.

 

Did You Know: Farm to school efforts have been fruitful. School Nutrition Services spent 17.9% on local food in the 2019-2020 school year, which was roughly 2.1 million dollars in total.

 

In the Classroom

Classroom Programming

Our Farm-to-School Program provides resources and networking opportunities to schools and farms in the district, supporting their efforts to build school gardens, source local food, and provide nutrition and agriculture education in collaboration with the Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE). Farm-to-School is a wonderful way to connect students to the world around them while also providing meaningful educational opportunities.  

Teachers have the opportunity to sign up for Farm-to-School programming in their classrooms. These are short lessons presented by our team who are passionate about food. Each lesson is different and can cover things such as a demonstration on preparing scratch-made salad dressings, a snack and story time, and sampling fresh produce from the school gardens. These are other resources that teachers can use in the classroom:

 

School Gardens

School gardens are established, managed and organized by the individual schools. School Nutrition, in collaboration with VCE, have resources available for teachers looking to start new school gardens. If you're interested in learning more about how VCE can help you with your school garden, please visit their website here.

 

Useful Resources

GREENetwork

The GREENetwork began as a desire to provide students the opportunity to explore and learn about all things sustainable; gardening, nature, recycling, science. In the process, this allowed members to learn there were other schools who shared the vision, and the school clubs grew in interest and numbers.  Today, there are over 150 Educators, and growing, who are dedicated to enhancing the knowledge and experience of our students. If you would like to join the GREENetwork, please contact Mark Pankau at [email protected]

 

For Farm to School questions, please contact Barbara Baile at [email protected] or Stuart Vermaak at [email protected]