Here’s how the schools in Virginia Beach are bringing the farm to the cafeteria

The students got to try their hand at making from scratch meals that will go on the cafeteria menus. (Southside Daily/courtesy of Kip Poole)
The students got to try their hand at making from scratch meals that will go on the cafeteria menus. (Southside Daily/courtesy of Kip Poole)

VIRGINIA BEACH — The school district is on a mission to bring farm fresh, from scratch cooking to all cafeterias in the next five years and District Chef Kip Poole is heading it.

Poole came to the district in 2018 after running a culinary school in Newcastle, Delaware — once he heard the school district wanted to bring more fresh fruits and vegetables to the cafeterias, he applied for the job.

He and his culinary development team work with students to teach them how to garden and grow fresh fruits and veggies for their school lunches through garden clubs.

Currently two schools, Landstown Complex which includes Landstown Elementary and Landstown Middle, and Old Donation School, have school garden clubs that grow food which is then served in the cafeteria.

The plan is to change the way students eat, Poole said.

“We want to teach them how to eat well again,” he said.

Getting home-grown, from scratch cooking on school menus is actually more cost effective for the school district because there is less labor behind getting the meals to the cafeterias, Poole pointed out.

In addition to teaching students how to grow food, Poole’s culinary development team is training the cafeteria staff at all of the schools on how to make the new menu items.

“Incorporating the students and the staff is our main concern,” he said.

If they have everyone in on the process of going “from scratch” for meals, it’ll be a lot easier to get it done, he said.

Since the district is so large with almost 80 schools, Poole said they are bringing from scratch cooking to the schools in stages.

Starting September there will be five schools with from scratch menu items at the cafeterias and by January 2020 there will be seven more.

“By the next year 12 schools will have those options and then in about five years the district hopes to have all schools with the from scratch options,” he said.

The district was unable to provide a list of the 12 schools that will have those options.

As of right now, every school has at least one from scratch item that students can pick, Poole said.

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Melanie Occhiuzzo started her professional journalism career at Southside Daily in June of 2018. She has since become a storyteller for the local community with special interest in anything locally-owned or animal related. You can find her running between meetings, researching the latest dog story online or reporting on the local school systems.