Virginia’s first lady announces new farm-to-school goal for state’s schools

The program aims to increase local food purchases to at least $22 million by 2022.

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Virginia first lady Pamela Northam is calling on the state’s school nutrition programs to start buying local. Alongside Secretary of Education Atif Qarni and Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring in March, Northam announced the initiative seeks to increase annual statewide local food purchases to at least $22 million over the next three years.

Since 2014, local food purchases by Virginia schools have at least doubled, from $7.7 million to $15.4 million in 2017, according to the Virginia Department of Education and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, attributing the growth to the increasing popularity of farm-to-school programs.

The state has over 500 schools with gardens where students are growing food for the school cafeteria and are learning directly from local farmers, according to the Department of Education.

Virginia’s Farm-to-School Network is hosting meetings across the state in April and May to develop regional plans for achieving the $22 million goal. The network will be coming to Northern Virginia on Tuesday, May 7, at the Frederick Douglass Elementary School’s garden in Leesburg, from 3 to 5:30 p.m.

The meetings are open to farmers, educators, school nutrition professionals, school administrators, students and parents and the general public. Register for the Leesburg meeting here.

To find out more information about the Farm-to-School Network, visit farmtoschool.org.

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