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Farm to Schools grant to help students make the connection between food consumption and personal health

BUCKHANNON –The West Virginia Department of Education awarded Upshur County Schools a $65,000 Farm to Schools Grant. Upshur County Schools are committed to providing a holistic approach to student health and wellness. As part of that approach, all nine schools in Upshur County will participate in the county-wide program.

The Farm to School program will provide locally grown produce to school cafeterias, and learning students learn about agriculture and nutrition through hands-on learning. Students will explore techniques for growing, processing, and marketing foods, while establishing relationships with local farmers. These activities will incorporate a health and wellness component to support the well-being all students and staff.

Although the program will look different at each school, the idea behind this program is to help students make the connection between food consumption and personal health. Some of the program activities will include growing food in classrooms, as well as outside in high tunnels and raised garden beds, conducing pop-up markets in conjunction with local farmers, and providing produce to school cafeterias.

To sustain the work and increase fidelity to health and wellness, Upshur County Schools have hired a Wellness Champion, who has a passion for this work. Mrs. Cheryl “Mateal” Poling will serve as the liaison and expert in development of the Farm to School program and healthy food access. Mrs. Poling will also serve as an essential part of the school food services team and will be active in developing and encouraging relationships with local farmers, engaging Future Farmers of America (FFA) students and teachers, and increasing youth opportunities to enhance involvement.

“We are excited to be able to offer the Farm to School experience to our students.” shared Mr. Eddie Vincent, Upshur County Schools Director of Wellness and Child Nutrition. “Opportunities like this enhance student interest in agriculture and enhance partnerships between families, schools and farmers within Upshur County.” 

“Agriculture is an important aspect of our community, and we want our students to learn more about where their food comes from. We want them to learn how to grow and even preserve their food. Canning has been a long-standing tradition for many of our Upshur County families,” shared Dr. Sara Lewis-Stankus, Superintendent of Upshur County Schools.  “The majority of our schools have high tunnels with raised garden beds that provide a hands-on learning experience. The lessons learned through gardening and the Farm to Schools program has a lasting impact on children, their families, and our communities.”

Cheryl “Mateal” Poling
Cheryl “Mateal” Poling

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