From lettuce to legumes, school cafeterias across Virginia Beach are going local

This week marks Virginia Farm to School Week, an official designation to honor the effort schools are making to increase the amount of fresh Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables served to students. In VBCPS, it is a celebration being recognized in every single school lunchroom.

In honor of Farm to School Week, all Virginia Beach schools will be serving up broccoli, romaine, Bibb lettuce, grape tomatoes and cucumbers produced on Virginia farms. In addition, about 20 schools will be serving Virginia-grown collards, beets, Hanover salad, sweet potatoes, Roma tomatoes and bell peppers.

While this week marks the official farm to school celebration, it certainly isn’t the only time VBCPS supports Virginia farmers. In fact, milk from Marva Maid Dairy in Newport News is a daily staple in Virginia Beach lunchrooms and the division strives to purchase local food throughout the year.

“Food is a great vehicle for educating students and adults about sustainability because we make social, economic and environmental decisions everyday with the food choices that we make,” said Tim Cole, sustainability officer for VBCPS. “When we purchase local food we strengthen our local economy and provide local jobs, and a strong economy strengthens social structures.”

Another benefit to providing locally-grown food, he added, is that it reduces the embodied energy that accompanies food from out of state and out of country.

“It is important for all of us to understand the effects of embodied energy, as well as pesticides, fertilization and antibiotics on us and our natural environment,” Cole said. “I hope everyone will take some time this week to appreciate what farmers do and think about the food we eat.”

According to the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia public schools spend more than $6 million annually on fresh produce. Therefore the focus on farm to school programs opens the doors for more of that money to stay in the state and to support Virginia farmers.

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