Roanoke partnership launches new Farm to School Program with Roanoke City Public Schools

From school gardens to farm field trips and local food on cafeteria trays, farm to school programs help children learn where food comes from and how to make healthier choices while creating new markets for local and regional farmers. Although some traditional farm to school activities may not be feasible amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Roanoke City Public Schools (RCPS) is moving forward to incorporate more local-grown products into school meals and provide educators and families with additional resources related to nutrition, cooking, gardening, agriculture, and stretching food dollars.

“Roanoke City Public Schools is committed to expanding nutrition education and supporting farm to school efforts,” states Ellen Craddock, RCPS Director of Food and Nutrition. “We believe these efforts will not only benefit our students, but our entire community. Our expanded efforts include the promotion of The Virginia Harvest of the Month campaign,” aims to increase children’s consumption of seasonal fruits and vegetables, grown locally. This campaign was developed by the Virginia Department of Education and initiated in 2019. Each month of the year, the campaign features an in-season, local-grown agricultural product in educational and promotional programming as well as in school meals.

For families and educators who want to dive a little deeper, the new farm to school website includes Harvest of the Month videos, other fun activities, and recipes featuring the sweet potato. This new website was developed by Virginia Cooperative Extension in partnership with Virginia’s Family Nutrition Program. It also includes information about how families can connect to Roanoke community gardens and other local food resources, Virginia Cooperative Extension curricula and resources on various topics related to farm to school for all grade levels, and more.

“Farm to school helps children, families and the community to see, taste and feel the important connections between our bodies and the food we grow and eat. As a community of farmers and farmer supporters, we are here and we want to serve our community as best we can,” says Maureen McNamara Best, director of LEAP.

The RCPS Farm to School work is a partnership between RCPS, LEAP, and Virginia Cooperative Extension and is funded through a United States Department of Agriculture Farm to School Planning grant held by LEAP.

If interested in getting involved in the Farm to School program or have questions, please contact Sam Hedges at hedgesjs@leapforlocalfood.org, (540) 632.2295.

About LEAP: Local Environmental Agriculture Project (LEAP) is a Roanoke-based 501c3 non-profit. Founded in 2009, LEAP’s mission is to nurture healthy communities and resilient local food systems. We work closely with local farmers, businesses, partner organizations and the broader community to meet this mission. LEAP aims to help create healthy communities that can respond and adapt to meet community needs. LEAP programs include LEAP Farmers Markets (West End and Grandin Village), LEAP Mobile Market, Farm Share, Healthy Food Incentive Programs (including SNAP Double Value, Medicaid Incentive), The LEAP Kitchen, Community Gardens, and Virginia Fresh Match.

About Virginia Cooperative Extension: Virginia Cooperative Extension is an educational outreach partnership between Virginia Tech and Virginia State University whose mission is to deliver education in agriculture and natural resources, family and consumer sciences, community viability, and 4-H youth development in order to provide solutions to problems facing Virginians. The Family Nutrition Program’s role in this mission is to teach limited-resource families and youth how to make healthy food choices and become good managers of available food resources for optimal health and growth. Funded by the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – Education (SNAP-Ed) and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), their programs focus on basic nutrition, physical activity, safe food handling, and thrifty food shopping. To learn more about the Family Nutrition Program visit their website, www.eatsmartmovemoreva.org.

About Roanoke City Public Schools: Roanoke City Public Schools is an urban school division in Roanoke, Virginia, serving a PreK through 12- grade population of approximately 14,000 students. Its mission is to graduate students prepared for life in a rapidly changing world. RCPS offers state of the art learning experiences, taught by teachers who are highly qualified and understand and accept the challenges of helping every student to reach their greatest potential. The district has 17 elementary schools, five middle schools, two high schools, as well as four alternative schools including, Roanoke Valley Governor’s School for Science & Technology and the Roanoke Technical Education Center. RCPS believes strong students create strong schools and ultimately a strong city. Visit www.rcps.info for additional information.

About SodexoMAGIC: SodexoMAGIC is a joint venture formed in 2006, between Magic Johnson Enterprises, LLC, which is owned by NBA Hall of Famer, Earvin “Magic” Johnson, and Sodexo, Inc. SodexoMAGIC provides nutritional K-12 school breakfast and lunch offerings that provide students with a variety of healthy meals in accordance to USDA guidelines. The minority owned company has also established various educational and interactive activities to educate children on the importance of maintaining healthy lifestyles.

The goal of SodexoMAGIC in K-12 is to encourage children to value nutrition, initiating a commitment to health & wellness that will continue throughout their lives. SodexoMAGIC leverages the support of renowned culinary experts and suppliers to offer innovative concepts, delicious items & unique dishes geared toward the communities that are being served.

For additional information, please visit www.sodexomagic.com.