More Virginia schools buying fresh food from farmers

RICHMOND—From elementary schools to colleges, Virginia school food service directors are purchasing and serving locally grown foods to their students.

And the Virginia Farm-to-School Work Group is hoping more schools will do the same during Virginia Farm-to-School Week, Nov. 8-12.

"The interest level has been high with the start of the school year, and we expect an even higher participation this year," said Leanne DuBois, farm-to-school coordinator for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The celebration "helps build connections between schools, students and agricultural producers across Virginia," said Karen Davis, a member of the Virginia Farm-to-School Work Group and executive director of Virginia’s Agriculture in the Classroom program. "We’re hoping that the weeklong celebration will lead to a long-term relationship between school cafeterias and Virginia farmers."

The first Farm-to-School Week was held last November when 35 school divisions participated.

Mike Cullipher of Cullipher Farms in Virginia Beach supplied about 400 pounds of sweet potatoes to Goochland County schools last year.

"It’s a great program, without a doubt," Cullipher said.

He sells some of his fruits and vegetables at a roadside stand and said he’s noticed more people showing an interest in where their food comes from. Cullipher believes school food service directors are becoming increasingly interested as well.

Schools in Goochland and the city of Harrisonburg serve Virginia-grown entrees on a regular basis. In the Shenandoah Valley, five school divisions are purchasing 30,000 pounds of hamburger from a local grower/processor.

Contact Davis at 804-290-1142 or DuBois at 804-225-3663.

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