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Grant brings locally-grown food to cafeterias

Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane recently announced the Virginia Department of Education will use a nearly $100,000 Farm to School Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support efforts of school nutrition programs to serve Virginia-grown food in school cafeterias and school-based meals programs.

The $99,987 grant will fund efforts by the department — in collaboration with local, regional and statewide partners — to expand the commonwealth’s eight regional farm-to-school networks, continue farm-product specific procurement training for division school nutrition staff and create school nutrition programs that capitalize on local agricultural products. VDOE launched these initiatives in 2017 after receiving a similar USDA farm to school grant.

“With support from this latest award, more of our school communities will discover the benefits of farm-to-school programs and the opportunities they provide to learn about where food comes from and how the choices they make can impact communities and the environment,” Lane said. “Even if they live in a community many miles from the nearest farm, students can enjoy wholesome meals and learn about the commonwealth’s largest industry.”

The grant will also support school field trips to farms, the development of an agriculture curriculum for students and a statewide farm-to-school conference. Key partners include the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Agriculture in the classroom.

“This grant furthers our ability to provide more Virginia school children with fresh locally grown food, expands economic opportunities for agricultural producers and encourages job creation within the community and the state,” VDACS Commissioner Jewel Bronaugh said. “In addition, the farm-to-school program connects the commonwealth’s rich agricultural resources with the next generation.”