From Oct. 4 to 8, Fauquier Reaches for Excellence in School Health partnered with the Fauquier County Public Schools nutrition program to host Farm to School Week, where children across the county had an opportunity to experience local meat and produce as part of a school meal. A press release from FRESH program supervisor Kristen Mcauliffe explained that FRESH is a FCPS program with a mission to maximize opportunities for students to engage in active learning, active living and nutritional education.
Thornton River Orchard in Sperryville delivered 14,000 Empire, Golden Delicious and Cameo apples to all 20 FCPS cafeterias – enough for every child to have at least one.
Whiffletree Farm of Warrenton delivered chicken drumsticks to Kettle Run, Fauquier and Liberty high schools. Fauquier High graduate and Whiffletree Farm owner Jesse Straight visited FHS the day his chicken was served, to talk with teens about the farm to table process. Straight said in the press release, “It was a pleasure seeing our pasture-raised chicken drumsticks prepared so well and served to FHS students, my alma mater! Just raised about 5 miles from the school, you can't get much more local! Fauquier providing the best for Fauquier!”
Also in the release, FRESH chef Natalie Ortiz noted the importance of collaboration: “Ordering, receiving and preparing locally sourced food is extra work for our cafeteria managers and staff. We are thankful to have a strong partnership with the school nutrition program, who worked hard to make this process successful. The students definitely noticed how delicious these products were.”
Ortiz added, “Many students in Fauquier County have farmers as neighbors, drive by farms on the way to school, or have family members who work on the farms. Yet logistical issues often prevent school cafeterias from purchasing locally. We hope to overcome these challenges and further the partnerships between local farmers and school cafeterias.”
Director of School Nutrition SueAnn Fox said, “Our partnership with FRESH has helped us build relationships with our local farmers and overcome many of the things that have been barriers in the past … thank you to FRESH, Natalie Ortiz, Amanda Tackie and Jesse Straight, Thornton River Orchards, and a special thank you to our school nutrition teams for making this a healthy, fun meal for our Fauquier students … We hope this year’s events further our goal to advance freshly prepared, locally grown food and food literacy.”
FRESH has established partnerships with a number of other local vendors, including Powers Farm, Abundant Acres Farm, and 4P foods (a food hub located in Fauquier County that aggregates produce from across Virginia and delivers it to local kitchens). These relationships ensure that Fauquier County students are benefitting from fresh, local produce as often as possible, increasing the nutritional impact of their school meals, said Mcauliffe.
Ortiz said, “FRESH strives to inspire healthy habits for life and increase food literacy by making students feel more of a connection to the food they eat each day. ‘Farm to School’ week was a wonderful opportunity to make that happen.”