The updated school lunch rules went into effect in July and are the first change in the standards in 15 years.
The guidelines increased requirements for fruits and vegetables in school lunches from the previous one-half to three-fourths of a cup of both per day to the new requirement of three-fourths to one cup of vegetables plus one-half to one cup of fruit per day. Schools must offer a variety of vegetables, including a weekly serving of dark green and red or orange vegetables and legumes.
“I hope that as many school systems as possible will utilize locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables to meet their students’ nutritional needs,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Hopefully this will create new opportunities for farmers who may want to use high tunnels to extend their fresh produce growing seasons or begin packaging and processing local produce for use outside the fresh market season.”
The new guidelines also will help support the mission of the Virginia Farm to School program and will allow greater opportunity for Virginia-grown products to take a starring role on school menus, said Leanne DuBois, state coordinator of the Virginia Farm to School program for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The program is an effort to increase the amount of fresh and nutritious Virginia products offered in schools and to promote opportunities for schools and farmers to work together.
Nov. 5-9 will be the fourth annual Virginia Farm to School Week. Schools and farmers across the commonwealth will celebrate with menu items like apples, broccoli, sweet potatoes, beef, milk and more. Some schools hold special events that include visits by farmers, farm art contests and other activities.
A recent survey of school nutrition directors throughout Virginia, sponsored by VDACS, Virginia Tech and the Virginia Department of Education, revealed that all participants have knowledge of the Farm to School program and 70 percent have participated in a previous Farm to School Week.
Eighty-five percent of survey respondents said they serve local food in their school divisions; 46 percent have developed a purchasing relationship with a local farmer; and 30 percent plan to develop such a relationship within the next year. As for problems in sourcing local food,
50 percent said seasonal availability of local foods within the school calendar year was their biggest challenge.
via Virginia Farm Bureau