More locally-grown food heading to schools in the Star City

‘It’s another way to connect farmers to the community’

ROANOKE, Va. – More local, fresh food is coming to students in the Star City.

The farm-to-school movement has exploded in recent years. The initiative benefits farmers, the economy and kids.

Roanoke nonprofit Local Environmental Agriculture Project, or LEAP, is celebrating that growth this week by going straight to the consumers.

“Bringing more education about food and where it comes from and getting healthy food into the hands of kids is super important,” said Susanna Thornton, owner of Thornfield Farm in Fincastle.

It’s not just important for the kids, but also for farmers, she said. Many have been hit hard by the pandemic.

“It has really changed a lot of how we do business,” Thornton said.

The growth of the farm-to-school movement coupled with the shift to largely online learning this fall means many farmers who rely on distributing to schools are struggling.

“They had to pivot and they had to find a new way to change how they were going to make ends meet for themselves,” said Maureen Best, director of LEAP.

Now, there’s a new opportunity looking to the future, putting more locally-grown food in Roanoke schools. LEAP and the Virginia Cooperative Extension just received a nearly $50,000 grant to make it happen.

“It’s another way to connect farmers to the community and school procurement allows for a whole new market for farmers to be able to plan for and to grow,” Best said.

“In these times in particular when people are really struggling, I think it’s all the more important to kind of bring it back home, to know where your food comes from and why,” Thornton said.

LEAP teamed up with the Imagine Me mentoring program Monday. They’ll teach kids and distribute food at the Boys & Girls Club on Thursday.

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