The Department of Agriculture (USDA) named Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) a recipient of a 50,000 dollar grant to bring school meals directly from farms and fund the installment of school gardens.
The USDA has been working for years to make school meals more nutritious. The grant will assist in the development of a plan to purchase food produced within a range of 50 to 150 mile radius of Fairfax County.
“USDA’s Farm-to-School program increases healthy, local foods available to schools, providing them with the flexibility to offer tasty and appealing options to students,” Julie Brewer, Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) Director of the Office of Community Food Systems said in a press release.
Hollin Meadows Elementary School intends to expand school gardens to provide additional sources of food and schools could construct additional gardens.
“The main focus of this grant project is developing a plan of action,” Maria Perrone at FCPS FNS said.
Students said they have mixed opinions on the grant and the idea of school gardens.
“A garden at school would be useful, but we could also use that money to buy utensils and dishwashers to clean them,” junior Sydney McCarthy said. “[There are] a lot of things that are bad for the environment.”
According to the USDA website, the Trump administration is working to balance health and flavor in school meals. New policies from Dec. 2018 overturned Obama-era regulations on milk, grain and sodium content of school lunches. These regulations were effective on July 1, 2019.
“If kids aren’t eating the food, and it’s ending up in the trash, they aren’t getting any nutrition – thus undermining the intent of the [school meal] program,” Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said in a release.
USDA has been supporting farm-to-school programs since former president Barack Obama signed the Child Nutrition Reauthorization and The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
“The 2015 Farm-to-School Census found that schools with strong Farm-to-School programs reported higher school meal participation, reduced food waste, and an increased willingness of the students to try new foods,” Brewer said.