Farm to School Program Boosts Learning

Ann Butler of Edible Education talks with kids about the nutritious food they are eating.

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — What will happen if students eat only fresh, local foods in school?  Will their grades improve?  Will absences go down?  It is a study going on at Richmond’s St. Andrew’s School, and the kids are eating it up!

There is excitement in the lunch line.  Today’s menu is another great one:  burgers made with beef and beet, plus plenty of produce.

“I like how at the salad bar we can have eggs and cucumbers and sometimes tomatoes,” says fifth grade student Joshua Bush.

This program is built on a partnership with a purpose.  Chefs from Edible Education cook and serve up fresh food brought in by Field of Dreams Farm.  About 90% is grown nearby.  At the beginning of the year, nurses checked each student’s weight, height and general health.  Now they are following them to see how this fresh food is fuel for the classroom.

“When you’re eating healthy, you’re able to pay attention, stay focused,” says Cyndy Weldon-Lassiter, the St. Andrew’s Head of School.

Fifth grade student Caitlyn Watson notices she has more energy in class since this Farm to School program started.
Fifth grade student Caitlyn Watson notices she has more energy in class since this Farm to School program started.

 

“After lunch when we go to class, I actually feel refreshed,” fifth grade student Caitlyn Watson notices.  She isn’t as sleepy in class now and likes discovering new favorites, like spaghetti squash.

“We know that if kids eat real food, the obvious will happen,” explains “Farmer Greg” Riggs of Field of Dreams Farm.  “They feel better, they’re not as absent, they don’t act out as much in class.”

From farm to lunch table to classroom desk, this study, like many others, already found a link between healthy food and learning.

“The best person to talk to is the after school enrichment person because she is the best testimonial,” says Ann Butler of Edible Education.  “Kids are at the end of the day more focused, at the end of the day not starving, at the end of the day ready to do their homework in a proper manner. And so that all that parlays into better grades.”

This program also offers a farmer’s market at the school, which allows students and their parents to buy the fresh produce they are eating at lunch.  Cooking classes are also available for children and their families so they can learn how to prepare the dishes.

St. Andrew’s has already signed on for this program again next year, and now some Richmond Public Schools are considering it too, using some grant money the district just received.  Stay with 8News for updates.

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