New Program Connecting Virginia Schools To Local Farmers
October 05, 2022 by 4P Foods
When was the last time you thought about what you ate in your school’s cafeteria? Maybe you are a parent with children actively consuming the goods served up by the lunch professionals? If so, you probably think about it often. Or perhaps you are still dreaming of those peanut butter chocolate bars they served once a month?
At 4P Foods, we think about the type of food children consume every day. When COVID hit in March 2020, all the supply chains broke including the ones getting food to school cafeterias . Many schools found themselves at Sams or Costco overspending on food to ensure their students had meals to eat. In the fall of 2021, it wasn’t just COVID everyone was nervous about spreading. Food shortage was a very real problem. Many schools didn’t know how to reach out to farmers down the road to access locally-grown and available food.
In April 2022, the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) announced its Centralized Local Procurement Pilot Program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Supply Chain Assistance grant. The grant included a $2.2 million budget to help schools use locally produced food and grown food products. The 70 eligible schools will be able to order unprocessed and minimally processed seasonal products for students’ breakfast and lunch programs from food hubs 4P Foods and Appalachian Sustainable Development.
Why is this significant? Research continues to reveal the negative effects of the industrial food system on climate and our bodies.
There are a host of key benefits schools gain from being able to order food direct from local farmers:
- Kids get access to nutrient-dense food
- Food travels significantly shorter distances from farm to plate
- Supports local growers and grower communities
- Provides economic opportunity for farmers
- Creates food sovereignty throughout the local food system
- Significantly reduced carbon emissions
This program with VDOE is the type of support that existing regional food systems need. While 60% of all organic food is grown and shipped from California, 4P Foods is working diligently to shift the balance. This will not only help heal the dry lands of the west, but also improve the soil and support farmers on the East Coast and in the Mid-Atlantic. While there will be growing pains, 4P Foods is making it easier to source food from local farmers.