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Panther Pride: Food for Thought

 

The Virginia School Board Association (VSBA) honored Rappahannock County Public Schools last week with the presentation of the Food for Thought Award. Rappahannock County Schools was one of just six school divisions in the state of Virginia to earn the award, given by the VSBA to school systems that showcase programs which combat childhood hunger, provide healthy school meals, and encourage wellness and physical activity. The award was presented by First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe at a conference luncheon on Tuesday, July 21, in Richmond.

Receiving the award for Rappahannock were Director of Food Services, Stacey Whitt, and Farm-to-Table Coordinator, Sarah Moore, both of whom were instrumental in managing the outstanding services and programs that led to Rappahannock’s recognition. The recognition they received in Richmond is evidence of the successful practices they have helped bring to the Rappahannock school division

Stacey Whitt has overseen Food Services for Rappahannock Schools for the past year, finding ways to serve healthier foods while at the same time improve the fiscal performance of the schools’ cafeterias. Sarah Moore has worked for the school system for the past two years as the Farm-to-Table Coordinator, managing this project-based program and collaborating support from organizations such as Headwaters Foundation and Rappahannock’s local Farm Bureau. The Farm-to Table program has been in place in Rappahannock Schools for nearly a decade.

Teaching the children of our schools the value of healthy meal choices while at the same time striving to provide fresh foods, locally grown when possible, at the most affordable price is the daunting task that requires advanced planning. Clearly this is a task they have successfully completed, as evidenced by the VSBA’s Food for Thought Award. Another important effect of this program has been the multi-disciplinary emphasis of the program on Rappahannock County students. In addition to culinary arts, gardening and nutrition, the Farm-to-Table program has involved participants in the general arts producing murals on the school grounds. In the area of food production, students have incorporated growing of fresh vegetables in raised beds, hoop houses and used rainwater harvested by the cisterns.

Since the initial approval of the Farm-to-Table Program nearly a decade ago, the program had been experiencing decreasing student attendance and was becoming financially unsustainable. The division maintained steadfast in the support of the program and incorporated a project-based format utilizing student interest projects and new curriculum. Creating healthy minds and healthy bodies remains a goal of the program and Rappahannock’s recognition confirms that progress is being made in reaching that goal.

Superintendent Dr. Donna Matthews played a critical role in the sustainability of the program by assuming the financial responsibility for the program into the general budget, reinforcing support for the program through the hiring of a full time Farm-to-Table Coordinator, Mrs. Sarah Moore, and revamping the school food services program through the leadership of our Food Services Director, Mrs. Stacey Whitt, and Cafeteria Manager, Julie Banks. Dr. Matthews stated, “I am pleased that we have such capable individuals running the cafeteria programs at the schools and that we have had such success with our Farm-to-Table program. Having Mrs. Moore, our own environmentalist, in the division is indeed exciting and the students are responding to her instruction most enthusiastically. The program is a valuable asset to the school division and we were pleased to accept this award.”

 

- Mr. Jimmy Swindler and Dr. Matthews

 

Pictured left to right: Farm-to-Table Coordinator Sarah Moore, First Lady of Virginia Dorothy McAuliffe, Director of Food Services Stacey Whitt, and VSBA President Juandiego R. Wade

 

Picture compliments of VSBA

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