By Randy Arrington
LURAY, Jan. 27 — Virginia Jeffries believes in nutrition — but she also believes in community.
Continuing a program that began in the 2015-16 school year, Jeffries presented the Page County School Board with two bids from local growers to provide fresh produce for students.
“When we get local produce, we have an opportunity for the growers to have interaction with students,” said Jeffries, the school system’s supervisor of nutritional services. “While we live in an agricultural area, there are still some students who don’t see our food ‘growing’ and maybe don’t think about where it comes from.”
Jeffries also believes the program has many broader benefits, beyond the obvious health advantages of locally grown food.
“We, as a school division, have an opportunity to put money back into the community,” she said. “This is a great program for our students, but it has even greater opportunity for our community as a whole.”
At the end of December, the school system put out a Request For Proposals to provide fresh produce through July 31. The RFP was viewed more than 200 times on the state procurement website, but only two bids were actually submitted by the Jan. 22 deadline.
Jeffries is recommending approval of both contracts. Darrell Hulver’s Survivor Farm near Lake Arrowhead just outside Luray would provide sweet potatoes, raspberries, blackberries and tomatoes. Thornton River Farm and Orchard in Sperryville would provide apples, peaches and nectarines. Both vendors have worked with local schools for several years in this capacity.
While no total dollar amount was attached to the bids, the rate for produce was established based on price per pound or by crate, depending on the produce.
“It’s hard to put an exact figure on it,” Jeffries said. “The farmer for example, due to weather, may not be able to produce as much as they thought they would.”
The cost of the program will be covered by federal USDA entitlement funds. Last year, the school system allocated $60,000 in those funds for use this school year for the program.
School board members are expected to act on Jeffries’ recommendation for local produce contracts in February.
Jeffries wants local farmers and producers to know that while the current bids would run through July 31 — if approved by the board — the school system plans to put out another RFP for local produce “within the next month or two.”
The nutritional services supervisor hopes that more local farmers will submit bids to provide local produce to local schools from August 2020 through July 31, 2021.
Anyone who needs more information about the program or would like to talk with Virginia Jeffries about submitting bids to provide local produce for next school year, may call (540) 743-6533, ext. 2816.