The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services encouarges everyone in the commonwealth to celebrate Virginia Farm-to-School Week, October 1-5. The Virginia Farm to School Network, formed in 2018, connects schools with local food producers to purchase fresh, healthy foods for school cafeterias, preschools and summer feeding programs while enhancing educational opportunities in school gardens, classrooms and cafeterias.

Research from Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Education show that local food purchases have doubled in Virginia schools over the past four years with more than $15.4 million spent on local foods during the 2016-2017 school year. From school gardens and farm field trips to local food on cafeteria trays, farm-to-school practices provide opportunities for students to learn where food comes from and to make healthier eating choices while creating new markets for local and regional farmers.

Virginia Farm-to-School Week celebrations include the following special events:

· On Tuesday, October 2, Commissioner of Agriculture Jewel Bronaugh and Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Heidi Hertz will visit the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind at 9:15 a.m. to participate in a cooking lesson incorporating foods from the school farm.

· On Friday, October 5, Virginia’s First Lady Pamela Northam will visit Harrisonburg Public Schools at 11:30 a.m. to lead the “Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth” and enjoy a locally-sourced salad. The menu also features spaghetti with a local meat sauce from Seven Hills Meat Co, whole-wheat rolls with wheat from Nelson County and local salad ingredients from farms including Portwood Gardens in Dayton.

· Also on Friday, October 5, Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane, will host the Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth with division superintendents from across Virginia.

All Virginians are encouraged to make some noise for local farm-to-school programs by participating in the Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth on October 5 at 10 a.m. by simultaneously taking a bite out of a Virginia apple.

Additional information about celebrating Virginia Farm-to-School Week and the Crunch Heard ‘Round the Commonwealth can be found on VDOE’s School Nutrition webpage.