Today truly marks a new beginning—for our students, for our food and nutrition services program, and for Fairfax County. For many of us—former students, faculty, and parents—this day has been long awaited.
In 2012, when we adopted the FY2013 budget, the School Board voted to set aside funding for something that was vaguely referred to as a fresh food pilot kitchen program. I have to admit, at the time, when I had to whip votes, it proved tremendously helpful to have School Board colleagues that appreciate food, and it was particularly helpful to have a chairman who loves to eat.
In all seriousness, the vote supporting this project was unanimous (yes, even Kathy Smith voted in favor of it). That unanimous vote was an expression of the strong interest our Board has in bringing transformative change to our food program, in fitting with our student achievement goal to ensure that our students make healthy and safe life choices.
Of course, when we embarked down this road, we weren’t quite sure how to go about creating the pilot, and we were so lucky to have expert hands like Penny McConnell, Amy Hubal, Paul Davis and Kevin Sneed to help us conceive what we see behind us today. For those of you who don’t know her, Penny McConnell is someone who has been a driving force in the innovations within our food and nutrition services over the past half-century, and she has continued that innovative legacy with this project. I cannot thank them enough for helping us realize the Statesman Station.
In addition, at Marshall, we’ve been blessed with a principal, Jay Pearson, who has tirelessly advocated for this pilot. We’ve been blessed with parents and community advocates like Joanne Hammermaster and Mary Pope, not to mention faculty members, who have put in countless hours working with our students to promote this pilot. And we are so excited about the synergies that will be found with the culinary arts program as our students create items to be served for their fellow students.
Although the Statesman Station is an achievement worth celebrating, we are well aware that our work is not done. Over the coming months, we will be evaluating what works and what doesn’t to help guide us as we look to expand these efforts to other schools. After all, healthy, freshly-prepared food should not be limited only to those schools that have the administrative, community and parental support that we have at Marshall. All of our students deserve it.
I am so proud to live in a county where children and education are our number one priority, and I am also proud that our School Board has hired a Superintendent who aspires for Fairfax County to lead the nation in providing fresh, healthy food. Having so many distinguished elected officials here today reflects the community’s interest in this transformative change. I hope those that have joined us here today will continue to support us financially so that our children can continue learning lessons about healthy lifestyles that they can take through the rest of their lives, reducing the healthcare costs to our community in the long run.
Yes, even after today, the Fairfax County Public Schools system remains that large institutional aircraft carrier in an ocean strewn with obstacles like federal food regulations and financial restraints, but that doesn’t mean we can’t turn ourselves around and do great things if we set our minds to it. The Statesman Station is proof of that.