- Report Published -
|Farm-to-School Task Force Report (SJR 347)|
|Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry; Secretary of Education|
|SJR 347 (Regular Session, 2007)|
|Recognizing the problems associated with childhood obesity and the search to open additional markets for fresh farm products in Virginia, the General Assembly passed Senate Joint Resolution 347 (2007), which requested that the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and the Secretary of Education establish a Farm-to-School Task Force to develop a plan for implementing a Farm-to-School Program in the Commonwealth. SJR 347 also asked this panel to determine the best method of providing information to educational institutions.|
To meet the requests of SJR 347, the Secretaries formed and convened a Task Force three times to study the issue and identify solutions to the challenges inherent in establishing a Farm-to-School program. Regarding methods for best communicating information on the availability of Virginia produce to schools, the panel recommended a dual approach. Senate Bill 797 required the Commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) to establish a website to promote Virginia products to educational institutions. The Task Force believes improving this website will best serve as a means for communication on Virginia’s Farm-to-School Program. In addition to the VDACS website, the communication infrastructure currently present in the Department of Education will prove vital in linking all K-12 school districts with resources as this program develops.
Farm-to-School is about creating connections between growers, distributors and educational institutions. Through these connections, children and their parents can also be reached. To meet the educational needs for implementing a Farm-to-School Program, the Task Force submits the following recommendations:
:: Recommendation One –Strategic Partnership between VDACS and Department of Education
The Task Force recommends creating a continuing strategic partnership between VDACS and the Department of Education to ensure that this program receives the necessary attention to take root in the Commonwealth without needing significant new resources. This partnership will ensure that officials at both
agencies understand the needs of the groups they serve. A formalized partnership will require a small funding source and should be formed with staff from each agency dedicated to this effort.
:: Recommendation Two – Redesign of VDACS Farm-to-School Website
A redesign of the current Farm-to-School website will make existing resources more accessible and user friendly to all parties. This site could also be the medium through which success stories and other resources are presented. It will also provide information to link growers with distributors and distributors with educational institutions.
:: Recommendation Three –Funding Sources for Certification Assistance in Good Agricultural Practices/Good Handling Practices
Certifying small growers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Handling Practices (GHP) will enable more farmers to sell directly to schools or distributors who provide to schools. These certifications (which standardize the way products are grown and handled) eliminate the barriers to markets caused by concerns over food safety. The Task Force recommends that the long-term strategic partnership seek to identify funding sources to assist growers with this process.
:: Recommendation Four – Pilot Farm-to-School Program
To guarantee the success of a Farm-to-School Program in the Commonwealth, the strategic partnership should plan and execute a pilot study to assess the feasibility and sustainability of the program. This partnership should identify tasks to be undertaken in the pilot study and also methods for evaluating the success of this program. Funding for this could be sought from existing state monies or applicable grants.