Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Where's the Beef?!

The "We're thankful for..." posts continue today with a recap of Farm to School week and a shout-out to one of our supporters who really made the grade.

In case you missed it, November 8 - 12 marked the Virginia's second annual Farm to School.  More than 25 schools in our area participated, serving up local apples, potatoes, broccoli, winter squash, cauliflower, peppers, mushrooms, and grass-fed beef. By the end of the week, more than 11,000 students had the option of purchasing a school lunch made with local foods.  Impressive!

Local Food Hub visited a few of the participating schools that week, and had a blast talking to kids, checking out the menu, and of course sampling local apples and local apple cider. One of my favorite parts, though, was talking with the cafeteria managers about how we can make the Farm to School connection last all year, not just during a week in November.

Public schools face a real conundrum when it comes to lunch programs. With less than $2 per child to spend on lunch (including utensils, napkins, trays and milk), there's not a lot of flexibility; often the choice comes down to what's cheaper, not what's more nutritious. Local Food Hub does our best to work within the constraints of their budget, but it's a delicate dance -- while schools require very low prices, family farmers need to make a fair wage for their labor.

That's why we were so excited this summer to receive a grant from Sofia Case and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation. Designated specifically to bridge the gap between what local food costs and what schools can afford, this gift allowed public schools in Charlottesville and Albemarle to feature fresh, locally-produced grass-fed beef (a far cry from this) on their menus all week.

In fact, this $1,000 grant helped feed more than 4,000 kids.  When you think about it, that's a small investment for a really big impact. And that's why we're thankful for Sofia's gift -- it's smart, out-of-the-box thinking that made a serious difference to school kids, parents, and farmers right here in our community.

So thank you, Sofia, and thanks to everyone who's working hard to make school lunches healthy, affordable, and local!

If you're interested in supporting our work with Farm to School, you can contact us at info (at) localfoodhub.org or donate online!

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