Farm to School
Public schools in Virginia serve more than 680,000 lunches every day – that’s more than 122 million lunches per school year. Now, just imagine if those lunches were created in a scratch-kitchen using fresh, locally sourced fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy. Yum!
Local Food Hub is working to make that vision a reality through a variety of “farm to school” initiatives and partnerships. These efforts increase the availability of healthy, fresh, locally sourced foods served at school, develop large markets for small family farms, and give school children a better understanding of their food.
Connecting Local Schools with Local Farms
Local Food Hub is an innovative nonprofit working to connect farms, families and food grown close to home. We enable small farmers and food producers to access large consistent markets like grocery stores, hospitals, restaurants, and public schools. By creating one number to call for fresh, local food, and working closely with cafeteria managers and school nutritionists, Local Food Hub removes institutional barriers and enables the procurement of healthy, local food for school cafeterias. Today, we deliver fresh local food to more than 45 public and private K-12 schools and universities.
Charlottesville is becoming a national leader in the local food movement, but there is still considerable need to bring the benefits of eating fresh, healthy food to more diverse populations in our community. With 55% of children in our Charlottesville City Schools alone qualifying for free or reduced price lunch, Local Food Hub believes that one of the best ways we can make a lasting impact on community health is by distributing fresh, healthy local food through our public school system and nurturing healthy eating habits in children from all socio-economic backgrounds.
Farm to School in Virginia
Virginia is fortunate to have a robust Farm to School program administered by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Virginia Department of Education. Officially designated for the second full week in November, Virginia Farm to School Week is an opportunity for all schools in the Commonwealth, kindergarten through college, to purchase, serve, and promote Virginia Grown foods in their cafeterias during the week. Local Food Hub works closely with schools in our area to build connections between schools, students and agricultural producers throughout Virginia, thereby providing better economic opportunity for agriculture, healthier options for our children and educational value for students in knowing where their food comes from.
Bridging the Gap
Public schools face a real conundrum when it comes to lunch programs and food procurement. With an extremely limited budget (that must include utensils, napkins, trays and milk), cafeteria managers and nutritionists must often make choices based on affordability rather than nutritional value. Local Food Hub’s Farm to School Fund brings together funding from community members and foundations to “bridge the gap” between what schools can afford for local products and what farmers need to make a living wage – a win-win situation for kids, families, school administrators, and local farmers.
This creative solution enables public schools to serve fresh, local, grass-fed beef – a healthier, happier alternative to the regular commodity meat products – at an affordable price to thousands of hungry public schoolchildren. In 2010 and 2011, Local Food Hub’s Farm to School Fund provided more than 4,000 servings of grass-fed, hormone free beef to school kids in Charlottesville.
Image credit: Sean Dreilinger/Creative Commons.