With educators, farmers, policymakers, business owners, nutrition coordinators, food distributors, extension agents, and other members of the community working to get local and healthy foods into our schools, the 2015 VA Farm to School Conference has proven that the Farm to School Movement is blossoming in Virginia and across the United States.
This week, I was fortunate to be able to attend Day One of the two-day Farm to School Conference in Charlottesville, VA. The conference highlighted the efforts being made across the state to get fresh, healthy, local foods (and education about those foods) into our schools. This year, the conference was specifically aimed at “cultivating success,” or in other words, providing a space to come together and talk about the strides that have been made to connect local farms to schools and the work that still lies ahead.
CSG Executive Director, Jeanette Abi-Nader, presenting at the 2015 VA Farm to School Conference
Stories were shared about the procurement and utilization of locally sourced produce in school systems across the country – what has worked well and what has not worked so well. These folks told of gigantic butternut squashes used to make big batches of baked squash and of empowering students to take ownership of their meals, giving them the power to vote on recipes that will appear in their school’s cafeteria.
Others told about experiences and programs around nutrition and garden education in classrooms, gardens, and cafeterias across Virginia. With a glimmer indicating a true love for gardening in her eye, one school nutrition director talked about being out in the school garden every day, tenderly caring for the crops that would feed her students.
What struck me most, though, I have to say, was the sheer collaborative and multidimensional nature of this movement, which was demonstrated by just how many different places everyone was coming from in the room. In a recent blog post about CSG’s Harvest of the Month Program, I joked, “it takes a village…to feed our children kale chips.” It really does, though. Luckily, for us in Virginia, that village is already going strong!
Engaging students in gardening and garden-based learning is a beautiful thing.
Take a look at the fun I had with first grade students at Greenbrier Elementary planting peas for the First Peas to the Table friendly pea-growing competition across Charlottesville City Schools….
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