Virginia districts look at expanding farm-to-school programs

Department of Education received nearly $100,000 to expand programs


Students in Virginia will soon eat more locally-grown foods at school, thanks to a new grant.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced the Virginia Department of Education received nearly $100,000 to expand farm-to-school programs.

Farmers in southwest Virginia have been selling their products at places like farmers markets for quite some time, and their products have also been in school cafeterias.

"All this stuff, I purchased at an auction yesterday, and it's all grown in Franklin and/or Floyd County," Roanoke Fruit & Produce owner Fred Najjum said.

Roanoke Fruit & Produce's warehouse is packed with locally grown products, many of which, make their way to schools.

"We have lots of Virginia apples during the fall, in the winter, which we primarily sell to the schools and then in the summertime and early fall, we have cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes," Najjum said.

He supplies schools in Roanoke city and in Botetourt, Montgomery and Roanoke counties, even during the summer.

"It’s not enough stuff to do for all of the feeding they have right now. It will be in August and into the fall," Najjum said.

Sixty-eight of Virginia’s 132 school divisions already have farm-to-school programs, so this new grant will help them buy more local products and help other districts start their own.

"I think it's a really great program," Roanoke City Schools Superintendent Rita Bishop said.

Bishop recommends more schools put locally grown food in their cafeterias for many reasons.

"It tastes better, I mean that's No.1. No. 2, I think that we want to support local vendors economically," Bishop said.

That's good news for farmers and suppliers in southwest Virginia who said everyone benefits from buying local.

“It kind of connects the school to the community and the farms and what's going on in the agricultural community. It helps the community and helps everybody out," Najjum said.


WSLS 10 checked in with other school districts in southwest Virginia to see what plans they have for farm-to-school programs. Lynchburg City Schools said it does not have a farm-to-school program yet and is waiting on VDOE to provide direction. Roanoke County, Botetourt County and Montgomery County schools all have the programs but could expand in the future.