More fresh regionally grown produce headed to school cafeterias
Jeremy M. Lazarus | 4/21/2022, 6 p.m.
More fresh lettuce, tomatoes and other regionally grown produce could be headed to the cafeteria meals served to students in schools in Richmond and Henrico and Chesterfield counties.
The three area school divisions are among 70 across the state that could participate in a new effort to incorporate more locally grown items into school menus.
The Virginia Department of Education has been awarded a $21.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support school division purchases of locally produced fruit, vegetables and possibly meat for their in-school breakfast and lunch programs and for their summer meals program.
The department stated that it plans to distribute $19.7 million directly to divisions across the state.
In addition, the nearly $2.2 million that remains is to be used to launch the Centralized Local Procurement Pilot Program that will involve the 70 divisions. The money would go to regional food hubs to deliver fresh items to participating divisions, according to the VDOE.
Jillian Balow, state superintendent of public instruction, stated that the goal of the initiative is to strengthen schools’ relationships with Virginia growers to reduce problems state school divisions have faced from supply chain disruptions.
“School nutrition professionals across the Commonwealth have worked during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep students connected to the nutritious meals they need to thrive and learn,” said Sandra Curwood, director of VDOE’s Office of School Nutrition Programs.
The new pilot program could help school divisions to buy more locally, she said.
Ms. Balow said the pilot program is expected to begin shortly and continue through the 2022- 23 school year.