Federal, State, Local Leaders Kick off Statewide Farm to School Celebration
Governor Hogan Declares Sept. 19-23 as Homegrown School Lunch Week
BALTIMORE CITY, MD – Governor Larry Hogan has designated September 19-23, 2016 as Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week, a time when schools across the state help students understand that their food comes from farms. Students in hundreds of public schools across the state will get a taste of fresh, Maryland-grown and produced food in their lunches during the week.
“Maryland spends $18 million dollars annually on local products in school meal. Maryland ranks 9th in the nation with the average school district spending 23 percent of their food budget on local products, according to the latest USDA Farm to School Census,” said Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford who joined educators, farmers, and federal, state and local officials, and students from Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore City today to kick off the celebration. “It is essential that students learn and understand where our food comes from, and how vital our agriculture industry is to Maryland’s economy and our quality of life. We are extremely encouraged that nearly all 24 of our public school systems participating in this important educational program.”
At today’s statewide kickoff event, students at Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School heard state, agriculture and education officials talk about the connection between farms and food. Students and dignitaries also had the opportunity to taste local carrot and apple salad prepared by the Baltimore City Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services. The event concluded with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of new hoop houses and gardens for the school’s new urban agricultural class. Professional expertise and materials were donated by the Maryland Nursery Landscape and Greenhouse Association, Maryland Agriculture Education Foundation and other community partners for the school’s garden and hoop houses
All next week, the school will serve home-grown salads featuring as much Maryland-grown produce as possible including microgreens from City Schools Great Kids Farm, along with fresh fruit, sandwiches, and milk. The names of the farms that grew the food will be posted on the lunch menu and website. Those local farms include: Colora Orchards, Nash Produce, Richardson Farm, and Baywater Greens.
Local products used in school meals include: apples (Gala, Golden and Red Delicious), cucumbers, nectarines, peaches, plums, spinach, watermelon, tomatoes, milk, and pears. Baltimore City Public Schools buys local when feasible throughout the school year through Coastal Sunbelt Produce distributor, Schmidt Bakery, and Cloverland Dairy.
Speakers at the kickoff included: Lt. Governor Rutherford, Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder, Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises, Maryland State Department of Education Deputy State Superintendent for School Effectiveness and Chief Performance Officer Dr. Sylvia A. Lawson, Baltimore City Public Schools Food and Nutrition Department Executive Director Liz Marchetta, and Frederick Douglass High School Principal Kelvin E. Bridgers.
Other schools in the state are planning various activities to celebrate 2016 Homegrown School Lunch Week including taste testing of recipes created by high school culinary students with a pig and lamb raised by agricultural and FFA students in Caroline County Public Schools. Information about activities in other counties is available on the department’s website.
The Homegrown School Lunch Week, an element of the Jane Lawton Farm to School Program, was signed into law in 2008. More information about Maryland’s Farm to School program, including educational materials, menus, places to find local products, brief video soundbook with photos and interviews, plus much more for parents, teachers, and food service staff, visit the Maryland Farm to School website. For information on the school meals programs, visit the Maryland State Department of Education website. More on the benefits of buying local is available online.
The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 formally established a Farm to School Program within USDA to improve access to local foods in schools. In order to establish realistic goals with regard to increasing the availability of local foods in schools, in 2013, USDA conducted the first nationwide Farm to School Census (the Census). In 2015, USDA conducted a second Farm to School Census to measure progress towards reaching this goal.
Maryland Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder:
“Our goal is to see more local, fresh food in school lunches, not only to improve childhood health but also to help them learn about the importance of our farms to our environment and daily lives. Homegrown School Lunch week not only provides effective learning activities, it can be an economic opportunity for Maryland farmers and it’s fun for students and other participants. We are excited to see more urban farms participating in the program this year.”
Maryland State Superintendent of Schools, Karen B. Salmon, Ph.D.:
“The Maryland State Department of Education is excited to join the Department of Agriculture and schools across the State in celebrating Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week 2016. Farm to School activities enhance students’ learning environments. From the fresh, local meals served in school cafeterias to the engaging agriculture lessons taught in classrooms and gardens, Maryland’s Farm to School Program provides students with an experiential understanding of science, technology, health, and nutrition.”
Chief Executive Officer of Baltimore City Public Schools, Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises:
“We know that kids who eat a regular, healthy diet stay more focused in school and have more energy, which is why City Schools is proud to offer all of our students a healthy breakfast and lunch for free at school every day. An added bonus is that many of the fruits and vegetables we serve come from local sources. We are excited to be part of the Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week celebration to highlight the local farms that feed the City Schools community and to teach our kids the important lesson about where their food comes from.”
Frederick Douglass High School Principal Kelvin E. Bridgers:
“We are excited to be a part of the Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week Kick-off event. We have been working diligently here at Frederick Douglass High School to develop an Urban Agriculture Program that educates young people about the benefits of urban gardening and healthy living. Our commitment is to Maryland farmers and growing the industry by training our young people and providing them with skills to be successful in the Agriculture industry.”