Farm to School tastings introduce children to fresh local foods

SustainFloyd received funding for a two-year project aimed at bringing local foods into the school system, and providing education to students about the value of whole foods. The project allowed our project coordinator, Amy Avery Grubel, to arrange a number of tastings and lessons in the schools, and to work with kitchen staff and produce buyers to get more fresh food on the school menus. Amy’s work was instrumental in the introduction of a salad bar at the high school. In spite of skepticism about this, the salad bar has proved to be popular with students and is a positive outcome from this project.

A national program, Farm to School aims to create a sustainable markets for local farmers and to teach our children how fresh food is grown and produced. Our goal in taking on this project was to encourage the  Floyd school system to buy from local farms and increase the amount of fresh produce being served. This had the dual benefit of creating revenue for farmers and ensuring fresh, nutritious food to our schoolchildren – and all while avoiding high transportation costs and greenhouse gas emissions!

SustainFloyd ran a competition for a banner to announce the new high school salad bar

 

The Floyd County program grew from humble beginnings a few years ago to include an array of community partners, including the Floyd Healthy Community Team, New River Valley Community Services, Plenty!, SustainFloyd, Virginia Cooperative Extension and others. The initial impetus for the project came from then director Mike Burton, who believed passionately in the need to improve school meals and arranged several potato plantings for school students.

During the period of the Farm to School grant– a potato plantings in the spring, digging in early October and later enjoying the same potatoes in the school cafeteria provided a wonderful experience for the students. The project also allowed an expanded delivery system from local farms to school cafeterias.

SustainFloyd Food Truck
The SustainFloyd refridgerated truck was available for deliveries to the schools

At times all five county schools received regular shipments of fresh Floyd County produce including potatoes and hamburger from Old Millstone Farm, apples from Wade’s Orchard,  lettuce and tomatoes from Riverstone Organic Farm and Black Sheep Farm and spinach from Fertile Crescent Farm. SustainFloyd provided help with transportation costs as needed.

Another part of the program was to provide education to school students about how food is grown and the steps involved between planting and eating. Our potato planting days were a big hit with students, a was the corn grinding day at Indian Valley School. Local corn was shelled, ground on a specially configured grinder attached to a bicycle and then winnowed in the wind. The cornmeal will be used in the school cafeteria to make cornbread for the students.Tastings were an important part of the project, with SustainFloyd arranging a series of tasting events at the schools. Students were encourage to try fresh foods they were unfamiliar. Unwillingness to try new foods is a big obstacle to changing eating habits, and these fun events were designed to help students have the courage to try something new.

The project also looked at what was needed for school kitchens to be able to handle more fresh food. Initiatives included providing some workshops in vegetable preparation and funding purchase of some better equipment.

At the end of the grant period our work finished, however, there is a sense of some lasting impact, from our education programs, from equipment purchased, and from the healthy interest in the high school salad bar!

Enjoy the video below showing a 2010 Farm to School outing when fifth-grade classes in Floyd County participated in a potato harvest. You should have heard the oohs and ahhs when the kids saw their first purple potato!

Our partners in this project were:

Plenty!’s purpose is nourishing community and feeding hungry neighbors by growing, sharing and teaching.

We value freshness in produce and program,

  • generosity where everyone gives and receives,
  • connecting to each and every person,
  • preserving Floyd County’s land and culture.

Program areas are:

  • Food Bank, Farm & Gardens, Schools and Gatherings.
  • In the schools we provide healthy snacks, create and teach in school gardens, distribute fresh veggies to preschoolers and partner with culinary and agriculture students.

The Floyd County Healthy Community Action Team was developed in 2012 with the goal of raising awareness and gaining support from the community to ensure that the health of children in Floyd County was being addressed.  From that the Healthy Community Action Plan group grew and is developing strategies to achieve this goal.    Currently in the works is a list of community resources to be distributed at community events and activities.  One of the messages we will be sharing is 5210; Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily, limit screen time to 2 hours or less, get 1 hour or more of physical activity daily and include 0 sugary drinks, more water and low-fat milk, in your daily diet.

Childhood Obesity Prevention Program.  Floyd County has long worked to reduce obesity in the area. In 2010, The Floyd County MD Team received a grant from the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth to develop a strategic plan on childhood obesity in the county. The plan, completed in January 2012, calls for “a comprehensive approach to obesity prevention that includes improving physical activity patterns, nutrition, access to healthy foods, food and beverage marketing, school policies, and the physical environment within the community.” The long-term goal of the plan is to reduce childhood obesity in the county by 10% by 2017. The Floyd MD Team has developed multiple community partners over the last year to implement anti-obesity work at elementary schools, the farmers market, and other various community organizations.

The Floyd MD team is currently working with the School Health Advisory Board on a survey that will give baseline nutrition and fitness information for kindergarten to 6th grade.

  • Floyd’s Healthy Community Action Team (HCAT) is working with a VFHY grant to increase Farm to School. Local produce is being delivered to IVES. The HCAT is working to have fresh, local produce in four county schools in the 2013-2014 school year.
  • Floyd’s HCAT is increasing Farm to School education in the schools. Last week, a Farm to School workshop was held at IVES. In spring and fall 2013, CES students will participate in field trips to plant and harvest vegetables.
  • Fall 2012, a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program was completed at Willis Elementary. With the help of Cooperative Extension, Plenty!, Fertile Crescent Farms, and Floyd County High School’s culinary arts class, each preschool family received 5 deliveries of fresh local produce. The post surveys indicated that over a 10 week period, 92% of the preschoolers became more willing to try new foods at home, 83% of the families ate more fruits and vegetables at home, 66% of the preschoolers helped more often with the preparation of snacks and meals, and 50% of the families tried the healthy recipes provided. WES will continue the CSA program this spring. In addition, FES will begin the program in spring 2013.
  • School gardens are in operation in four of the county schools.
  • Lactation rooms have been established at FCHS, FES, IVES, and WES for lactating school staff. In addition to the schools, other local businesses have been supplied with pumps, refrigerators and chairs to create comfortable lactation rooms.  The primary partners involved were the New River Health District, the Floyd County Multidisciplinary Team, the Floyd County Healthy Community Action Team and Smart Beginnings New River Valley.