State Board

February 14, 2014 - Volume 34 Issue 11

State Board / State Department of Education News


Fresh food from farms across West Virginia was the main ingredient in the first-ever Farm to School Showcase sponsored by the Farm to School Collaborative. The showcase featured students, teachers and local farmers who have successfully implemented the Farm to School program in their counties and schools. This event was part of the kickoff for the Ninth Annual Cast Iron Cook-Off at the Greenbrier Resort that took place Jan. 17-18.  

“When county school systems purchase local products from farmers, the food served in our schools is not only fresher, but the local dollars stay in the community,” state Supt. James Phares said. “The economic and community development opportunities with the Farm to School initiative in West Virginia are limitless and the impact is real. This showcase brings the benefits of the Farm to School initiative center stage.”  

Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick said, “Farm to School presents a tremendous opportunity for our state and our agricultural community. We spend around $100 million a year on school food. Although we’ll never capture all that money, we could be keeping a substantial portion of it in our state where it can help our farmers, build our communities, and provide our students fresher, better meals.”  

The showcase featured three key components: grow, educate and sell.  

Grow - Learn how local farmers, two of which are high school students, have overcome the barriers and made farming financial viable. Also learn about how these student farmers have been able to interface with county food service programs.  

Educate - Presenters discussed how to successfully incorporate school gardens and garden based learning into elementary curriculum and how to implement a comprehensive farm to school program that involves both Agricultural Education and Pro Start Students. 

Sell - Incorporating local foods into school meals is no easy task. Presenters from two county school systems shared how they have been able to overcome the barriers.  

West Virginia Farm to School Collaborative partners include: the West Virginia Department of Education, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, the West Virginia University Cooperative Extension - Small Farms Center, the Collaborative for 21st Century Appalachia and the New Appalachian Farm and Research Center.  

Three years ago the Education Department hired a full-time F2S coordinator to work around the state, provided grants to agricultural education programs to enhance onsite growing projects, funded student farmers through entrepreneurial grants, and provided incentives for counties to purchase local products. Currently, the Farm to School program operates in more than 30 West Virginia county school systems.  

F2S Quick Facts:  

  • Since 2012, almost $900 thousand was spent on local products in West Virginia schools.
  • More than 30 counties purchased local foods for schools last year.
  • Thirteen agricultural education programs have been funded.
  • The Education Department recently awarded $58 thousand to fund an additional 11 agricultural education programs for the 2013-2014 school year using funds from the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.
  • Sixteen schools were funded with $2,000 start-up grants from the United States Department of Agriculture Team Nutrition funds.
  • More than 60 students were funded with entrepreneurial grants to start their own farming businesses, and these students have sold over $44 thousand worth of products to West Virginia schools.
  • The Education Department will sponsor 10 AmeriCorps members with funding from Volunteer West Virginia and the Benedum Foundation to help counties around the state with their Farm to School efforts  


 

The West Virginia Department of Education is looking for organizations across the state to help feed children and provide supervised activities during the summer.

County boards of education and other non-profit organizations can participate in the Summer Food Program, which encourages communities to provide safe places for children and teenagers 18 and under. Organizations receive funds to provide meals to complement recreational and educational programs. Feeding sites include schools, churches, community centers, pools, parks, housing complexes and summer camps.

“While children have access to school meals throughout the school year, those meals end when school is out for the summer months,” state Supt. Jim Phares said.

The Summer Food Program was created to ensure that children in lower-income areas could continue to receive nutritious meals during summer break. An average of 178,000 children in West Virginia, about 58 percent of schoolchildren, depend on free and reduced-price meals at school, yet only 11,971 receive the free meals provided by the Summer Food Program.

“There were 410 Summer Food Program sites in West Virginia in 2013 that provided nutritious meals to children, and we believe many organizations will renew their commitment for 2014,” Phares said. “Promoting summer feeding sites in your community is one of the most important things you can do to ensure no child goes hungry this summer.”

Upcoming summer sites will be announced in May. Organizations involved in the 2013 Summer Food Program are posted at http://wvde.state.wv.us/ocn-download/Forms/SFSP/20.

For more information on the Summer Food Program contact the Office of Child Nutrition at 304-558-3396, or by e-mail at aberner@access.k12.wv.us, or the Office of Communication at 304-558-2699.

 

 

West Virginia day care providers seeking ways to serve nutritious, healthy meals may qualify for funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Child and Adult Care Food Program administered by the West Virginia Department of Education. The program offers cash reimbursements for meals served to children and USDA-donated foods.

Children enrolled at childcare centers or other facilities participating in the child and adult care food program receive free meals. The reimbursement rate to providers depends on the number of children eligible for free or reduced price school meals. Participants may be reimbursed for up to three meal types, including breakfast, lunch, snacks or supper. Some facilities may be eligible to receive USDA-donated foods as well.

Eligible childcare centers are licensed or approved public or private non-profit facilities. For-profit child care centers also are eligible if they receive compensation under Title XX of the Social Security Act for at least 25 percent of the children enrolled, or if at least 25 percent of the children they serve are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals.

Licensed or registered family day care home providers also may participate in the program under the auspices of an approved family day care sponsoring organization.

There are 10 approved sponsors throughout West Virginia. Additionally, homeless shelters providing services for families and after-school programs located in low-income areas can participate. Program sponsors provide meals at no extra charge to all enrolled participants or participating facilities.

In accordance with federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, the Education Department is prohibited from discriminating against its customers, employees, and applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity, religion, reprisal, and where applicable, political beliefs, marital status, familial or parental status, sexual orientation, or all or part of an individual’s income is derived from any public assistance program, or protected genetic information in employment or in any program or activity conducted or funded by the department.  (Not all prohibited basis will apply to all program and/or employment activities.)

If you wish to file a Civil Rights program complaint of discrimination, complete the USDA Program Discrimination Complaint Form, found online at http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.htm, or at any USDA office, or call (866) 632-9992 to request the form. Send your completed complaint form or letter by mail at U.S. Department of Agriculture, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410, by fax (202)690-7442; or email at program.intake@usda.gov

Individuals who are deaf, hard of hearing or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish).  USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

For more information on any of the above stories, contact Liza Cordeiro in the West Virginia Department of Education Communication Office at 304-558-2699.