Virginia governor visits school’s cafeteria

Virginia governor visits school's cafeteria

Brenna Cowardin

Governor McAuliffe fills his tray with Skyline Middle School lunch food.

By Brenna Cowardin, Harrisonburg High School, Harrisonburg, Va.

It isn’t every day you can find the governor of Virginia eating in the Skyline Middle School lunch room, but Monday, Aug. 25, was one of those days. Governor Terry McAuliffe and First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe stopped by the middle school to discuss HCPS’s local school lunch program and how to expand that across the Commonwealth. Gov. McAuliffe sees the issue as common sense and very approachable.

“This is the First Lady’s main initiative — trying to get the farmer’s locally grown produce into our schools… For me, what a win-win. It’s cheaper, it’s fresher, it’s helping our local farmers,” Gov. McAuliffe said.

However, there is one resounding problem — distribution. Despite the fact that agriculture is the state’s biggest industry, It’s not always possible for fast transportation of local goods from farms to schools.

“We’ve got to come up with a plan so that we can easily make it accessible to every school who wants to get the fresh grown, local produce,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “Walmart is selling produce that is coming from places that are maybe days away… We ought to be able to do this.”

We’ve got to come up with a plan so that we can easily make it accessible to every school who wants to get the fresh grown, local produce.”

— Gov. Terry McAuliffe

Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Todd Haymore sees distribution as key as well.

“Sometimes it’s easier to sell corn to China than to get that corn into the local community,” Secretary Haymore said.

However, HCPS is an example of a success story when it comes to distribution, something that Gov. McAuliffe hopes to replicate.

“It’s working here, it’s clear. You go through that lunch line and see all that fresh produce, and it’s locally grown, and it’s cheaper? We should be doing this in every school in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” Gov. McAuliffe said.

For now, the important thing is to be talking about the issue, and then following through.

“It’s about having a dialogue,” Secretary Haymore said. “The First Lady’s initiative will be pushed at General Assembly [this coming January].”

Skyline wasn’t honored with the Governor’s presence on accident. Executive Director of School Nutrition for HCPS Andrea Early, known across the state for her efforts to bring healthy food to children, worked with the First Lady before Gov. McAuliffe took office.

“Andrea is a legend in the state of Virginia as far as helping find more ways to get more locally grown sourced agricultural products into the school system,” Secretary Haymore said. “From Southwest Virginia to the Eastern Shore, [everyone calls] Andrea for advice on how their district can get more locally sourced foods.”

Gov. McAuliffe not only wants to spread nutrition, good taste doesn’t hurt either.

“I had a spectacular cheeseburger, a great salad and some cottage cheese too,” Gov. McAuliffe said.