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VDACS Recognizes Smart Markets Bristow, Piney Branch Elementary for Farm to School Week

Smart Markets offers fresh food, vegetables grown with the use of little to no pesticides and vine ripened for optimal taste and freshness.

Anyone who has seen Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution knows that schools can make healthy choice that would go a long way to keeping children healthy.

While the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services promotes healthy eating through Farm to School week, they will also recognize Smart Market Bristow’s partnership with Piney Branch Elementary School.

Leanne Dubois of the Office of Division and Marketing for VDAC will present an award to Gil Trenum, Brentsville School Board representative, and Cathy Rivera, President of the Piney Branch Parent Teacher School Organization for their cooperative efforts with Virginia farmers and the farmers market.

“I’m very humbled for PWCS to be honored by VDACS. I do think it is a good model that other communities should consider and emulate if they think it will work for them,” Trenum said,

He said the collaboration is a great opportunity for Piney Branch students.

“It provides the opportunity for Piney Branch students to learn about the ways in which our food is grown and gets to consumers,” he said.

The award presentation is scheduled for 11:30 a.m., on Sunday at the Piney Branch School market.

Jean Janssen of Smart Markets, who approached Supervisor Wally Covington with the idea of holding her Bristow Market at the new elementary school location last spring, said it is a partnership that benefits both parties.

“Schools are slam-dunk sites for markets, especially in the suburbs where land for the market and sufficient parking are so hard to come by, and they can even be used to help raise money for the school,” said Jean Janssen, Founder of Smart Markets.

Rather than paying a fee to rent out the space, Smart Markets shares its profits with Piney Branch Elementary. But students at Piney Branch also benefit from learning opportunities, like tending a school-based “green garden” and learning about how their food was grown directly from the farmers.

Since part of Janssen’s mission was to create healthier communities, she believed teaming with a public school would be ideal.

At Sunday’s market, Smart Markets Bristow will demonstrate to VDACS’s School Coordinator, Leanne Dubois, their success as a market, community member and school sponsor.

“We are hosting Leanne Dubois who is bringing a letter of recognition and appreciation for Prince William Schools and the Piney Branch PTO for agreeing to host a farmers’ market on public school grounds, the only one in Northern VA., and maybe in the State,” said Janssen.

Dubois will also spend some time talking to vendors and meeting with the school community.

To celebrate the occasion, Janssen has invited vendors from some of her other markets as well, and Patty Repko, a nutritional counselor, will give a demonstration on how to make healthy kid-friendly snacks. For lunch, visitors can enjoy Uncle Fred’s BBQ or Divine Wood-fired Pizza, who returns to the market. Music will be provided by Bristow rock band, West on 66.

While, Janssen is excited about the cooperation between Smart Markets and the schools, she does not want the partnership to end there. She is currently talking with Prince William officials about opportunities to have small independent Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia Pennsylvania farmers provide some of the food served in PWCS cafeterias.

According to Janssen the perception is that buying from small farmers costs more than buying from large corporate farms, but if school systems were to purchased directly from the farmers this would not be the case. When she first got her farmers foods into local restaurants, she encountered similar resistance, but volunteered as a nonpaid broker for a time, until a working relationship was solidified between the farms and various restaurant owners.

The Prince William School Board seems interested in such an opportunity. During the Oct. 22, school board meeting, Gil Trenum proposed that Prince William Schools recognize Farm to School week, which was unanimously approved by all the members present.

“We already work with several co-ops to bring Virginia-grown fresh produce to PWCS schools when it is economically advantageous for us to do so, and I hope we can expand this and bring in more locally-grown produce in the future,” said Trenum.

As far the Piney Branch PTSO, they feel the market is a great sponsorship that will help them to reach their goals of becoming rated as a Gold or Silver score for the Governor’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Award Program as well as reach their larger goal of having healthy students and families.


© 2012, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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Category: Education, Thought for Food

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