By Stefanie Jackson – Accomack County Public Schools will partner with the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore this year to provide free, fresh produce to Accomack students and their families, school social worker Tysha Chambliss announced at the Oct. 15 school board meeting.
“Last year, Metompkin’s teachers came to you and they talked to you about kids being hungry and trying to set up a food pantry,” Assistant Superintendent Rhonda Hall reminded the school board.
After school administrators partnered with the local food bank to research the issue, the answer they came up with was a “pop-up” farmer’s market, which was tested in 2017 in Norfolk, Va.
The primary goal of the pop-up market is to provide 25 pounds of fresh produce to each of 100 Accomack households.
There is no application to fill out to participate. The only requirement is to be an Accomack public school student or family.
The first pop-up market will appear Thursday, Nov. 21, at Metompkin Elementary School, in Parksley. The market will return about every other month, on Thursday, Jan. 16, Thursday, March 12, and Wednesday, June 3.
The dates were selected to coincide with PTA and Title I nights.
There are tentative plans to hold the pop-up market at Pungoteague Elementary School, in Melfa, in the months of December, February, April, and June, on dates to be determined.
Plans are in the works to host cooking demonstrations at Chincoteague High School.
Any Accomack public school student or family may attend any market event.
Each pop-up market will offer seasonal produce from Tidewater and Eastern Shore farms.
On the day after each pop-up market, leftover produce may be distributed to parents, teachers, and staff.
The program is funded by a TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) block grant obtained by the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Eastern Shore.
The food bank is responsible for supplying and transporting the food and equipment, organizing cooking demonstrations and taste tests, and providing nutrition education.
Accomack schools are responsible for storing the food and equipment, recruiting volunteers like teachers and staff, and advertising and marketing the program.
Secondary goals of the program include promoting healthy eating, encouraging parent engagement at school, and increasing participation in the food stamp program, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Superintendent Chris Holland had an announcement of his own related to student nutrition.
As of Nov. 6, all Accomack high schools will offer the Grab and Go breakfast program that is already in place at the middle schools.
Every morning, students can get brown-bag breakfasts of both hot and cold foods that they can carry to homeroom to eat. Eating breakfast in the cafeteria will also be an option.
The school board voted unanimously to approve Holland’s proposal.
Both breakfast and lunch are now free to all Accomack public school students, made possible by the division’s participation in a USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) program, the Community Eligibility Provision.