Roanoke celebrates Farm to School Month

October is National “Farm to School month.” In Roanoke that means a month of opportunities for kids to learn how their food is grown, meet the farmers who grow it, and taste locally grown food.

The celebrations kicked off on October 5, when RCPS students sampled local apples in the statewide Crunch Heard ’Round the Commonwealth event. On October 6, families attended an apple-tasting event at Morningside Urban Farm. On Friday, Oct. 8, at 2:30 p.m., LEAP’s Mobile Market will visit the Downtown Public Library located at 706 S. Jefferson St. to give away harvest-themed books and provide a taste of local food; Saturday, Oct. 16, the public is invited to hear music, participate in an apple tasting, and purchase local food from area farmers at the Grandin Village Farmers Market, from 8 a.m. – noon, located in the parking lot behind Grandin Road; Saturday, Oct. 23, from 1:00 – 2:00 p.m., Kat Pascal from FarmBurguesa and Jerry Conner from Four Oaks Farm will be at Kids Square, 1 Market Square, leading a cooking demonstration and giving away farm treats; Friday, Oct. 29, from 12 – 3 p.m., the Science Museum of Western Virginia also at 1 Market Square, will host Zucchini with a Zing, a vegetable-inspired scientific experiment. Museum admission is free for SNAP/EBT recipients. The program is free to all with the price of admission.

On July 1, 2020, Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) and Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) received a United States Agriculture Department Farm to School planning grant in partnership with Roanoke City Public Schools and SodexoMagic to fund relationship building and action planning for farm to school programming within Roanoke City. Despite the challenges of launching this effort during the Covid-19 pandemic, the partnership has created resources and laid the groundwork for a robust farm to school program in Roanoke City. LEAP and VCE have launched a new farm to school website (https://sites.google.com/vt.edu/farmtoschool/home?authuser=0), and provided 20 Harvest of the Month lesson plans, along with other educational materials. A 16-member farm to school advisory committee is meeting monthly. Garden builds and farm-to-school activities are under way at Highland Park Elementary School, Hurt Park Elementary School, and Lucy Addison Middle School.

According to Maureen McGonagle with LEAP, “Farm to school programs are essential. They connect kids to their food system, and enable them to experience all the wonders of seasonal food grown directly in their communities, by their communities!”

For more information about Farm to School Month, the Farm to School planning grant, or LEAP, contact Maureen McGonagle at mo@leapforlocalfood.org.