Young people in West Virginia used their plots, plows, and fields to grow farm-fresh ingredients for delicious, nutritious, and locally-sourced school lunches by way of West Virginia University Extension Service’s Farm-to-School challenge.
The Challenge called upon all members of 4-H and Future Farmers of America throughout the state to take part in a competition to grow food to sell to local school boards for use in cafeteria lunches.
“The Farm-to-School challenge is a great way to encourage young people to become involved in growing their own food, and it teaches them the significance of West Virginia’s small farm industry and supporting their local community,” said Rodney Wallbrown, WVU Extension Service Mason County agriculture and natural resources agent.
Farm-to-school programs help local and state economies by investing in local farm businesses instead of spending money on foods from companies out of the state.
West Virginia became involved in the Farm-to-School program three years ago through a partnership between WVU Extension Service, the Department of Education, and the West Virginia Department of Agriculture. Currently, more than 150 schools and 46 counties throughout the state participate.
“The program continues to grow each year and opens up opportunities and supports local West Virginia farmers,” said Chuck Talbott, WVU Extension’s Putnam County agriculture and natural resources agent. “WVU Extension saw the program as a great way to involve and educate youths.”
The Farm-to-School challenge, developed by Wallbrown and Talbott, was designed to spark young people’s interest in agriculture-related topics and to educate them about the importance of locally-sourced foods, healthy living, and nutrition.
WVU Extension agents explain that not only does this program foster responsibility and partnerships, but it also helps youths learn other valuable skills such as farm marketing, business management, biology and environmental science—along with an appreciation for farm-related professions.
Awards were given to the four top sellers who participated—two 4-H’ers and two FFA members from Mason and Cabell counties. Champion winners received $200 awards and reserve champion winners received $100 rewards.
The high-selling 4-H’ers who participated were Drew Foglesong and Levi Wright from Mason County. The top FFA sellers were Zachary Call of Cabell County and Danielle Foglesong of Mason County.
Together, the four winners sold more than $20,000 worth of food items to local school boards in their area. Funding for prizes was provided by a West Virginia nonprofit organization called Sustainable Integrated Systems transforming agriculture (SISta).
For more than 100 years, WVU Extension has provided opportunities for West Virginia youths to learn and grow by providing and teaching important life and leadership skills through 4-H. Extension continues to help children be the pioneers of their future through University resources and knowledge.
CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU Extension Service
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