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Farm to School program coming to Randolph County

ELKINS — A Randolph County Schools came before the Board of Education this week to propose an opportunity for students to learn to grow their own food.

Eddie Daniels, bus operator for RCS, proposed the county implement a “Farm to School” program that help to ensure no children go hungry.

The West Virginia Farm to School Community Development Group strives to inspire the next generation of farmers in the state while also increasing locally sourced food in school meals, according to the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

Daniels explained he had previously worked with the Farm and Food Coalition to provide food to senior citizens, prompting his desire to also help youth in the area.

“I had the experience, last summer, to grow vegetables for seniors who were in need,” he said. “The Food and Farm Coalition came in and assisted me in setting this program up, and they said I had a (desire) to help others. They followed along, and we are now looking to do more for the school system.”

Daniels noted many students in Randolph County are being raised by their grandparents, adding some families may be struggling with fixed incomes that could be helped by Farm to School initiative.

“As I drive the school bus, one of the things I’m seeing at the stops is grandparents,” Daniels said. “They are on a fixed income and may not have the money to feed these kids, so I am trying to implement a program with the Food and Farm Coalition called ‘Farm to School.’ We are going to invite farmers in the area, and the (agriculture) programs in the schools, to grow some food for your students here in Randolph County.”

Lee Wright, vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at TVHS, said students in grades kindergarten though 12 could take part in and benefit from the Farm to School program.

Daniels added, if the program is implemented, he will donate a 25×100 foot high tunnel to TVHS.

The board gave a consensus vote in favor of the introduction of the program, and Superintendent Debbie Schmidlen will begin working with Farm to School officials to apply for federal grant funding to bring the program to Randolph County.

Three schools — Beverly Elementary School, Tygarts Valley High School and Pickens School — will likely serve as “pilots” in the first year of the program’s implementation.

Jenny Totten, representative for the Food and Farm Coalition, said in lower grades, components of the program is focused on learning to grow food while “getting your hands dirty,” and in higher level grades there is a larger focus on growing and production.

Following discussion about Farm to School, Tom Rennix, president of the Tygarts Valley Homestead Association, noted that association would be willing to offer its facility as a place for growing and storage of vegetables and other goods being produced.

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