Senator Patrick Leahy Announces USDA Grants and Celebrates Farm to School Month in St. Albans
ST. ALBANS, VT — U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy visited the St. Albans Town Education Center on Thursday, October 10th, to celebrate National Farm to School month and announce USDA grants awarded for school districts in Vermont to expand Farm to School activities. The grants total $300,000 and will help schools in Franklin, Grand Isle, Caledonia and Orange counties to connect their classrooms, cafeteria and community to local food and farms. The celebration was held in the school garden and orchard, which was the result of a state grant and where several new raised beds were being constructed on Thursday morning.
Students cooked and served “vegetable galette” snacks for the Senator and other special guests, who included Lt. Governor David Zuckerman, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food & Markets Anson Tebbets, Commissioner of Health Dr. Mark Levine, staff representing U.S. Congressman Peter Welch and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, farmers, and several others.
Senator Leahy kicked off the celebration, by noting, “Farm to School is another Born In Vermont initiative. I have been proud to support this work on Capitol Hill and help this program reach 33,000 schools nationwide. Nutrition education is one of the best tools we have to help our children live healthy lives and to connect our farms to local markets. Thanks to Vermont FEED and all the Vermont partners who unite our classrooms, our cafeterias and our communities.”
October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate the connections happening all over the country between children and local agriculture. From taste tests in the cafeteria and nutrition education activities in the classroom, to farm visits and school garden harvest parties, schools, early childhood sites, farms, communities and organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and U.S. Territories join in the celebrations.
Secretary Tebbetts challenged the students with the question, “Where do cows go for lunch?” After a few minutes he shared the answer: “The calf-a-teria!” On a more serious side, Tebbetts talked about the importance of Farm to School, stating, “When we bring people closer to our land and the animals, then Vermont is a better place.”
Dr. Mark Levine added that it is important to instill healthy habits as early as possible in Vermont students. Dr. Levine also encouraged all food service directors to fill out the USDA Farm to School Census, saying, “it is important that our Vermont story is included in that data.”
The St. Albans Town Educational Center was also preparing for a harvest festival at the school later Thursday evening, as students from Northwest Technical Center were building additional garden beds. Principal Angela Stebbins told the assembled crowd, “Farm to School has brought our school together around our garden and our new cafeteria area.”
After the outdoor celebration, guests joined students for lunch and enjoyed spaghetti with local beef sauce and kale caesar salad. Farmer Angus Baldwin from West Farm also conducted a taste test with students for the guests.