Dolcini visits Bluegrass schools, sees food program, green upgrades

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Ruth Reynolds (far right) explains the “Grab and Go Breakfast” process to FSA Administrator Val Dolcini while Jordan Barge (left) assists students in line.

By Scott Whittington, Public Affairs Specialist

Education of our youth has always been a priority. To do our part in assuring successful youngsters, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is expanding nutrition assistance to school-aged children.

While in Lexington, Kentucky, speaking at the National Association of Credit Specialists – Zone C Meeting, Val Dolcini, administrator for the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA), visited Leestown Middle School and observed the Breakfast Grab and Go Program in recognition of National Nutrition Month. The program was started by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and stems from the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), which is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

Before the program, students at Leestown did not have enough time to go through the cafeteria line and eat breakfast before classes began.  This program encourages students to eat the “most important meal of the day” by providing free meals in hallways on their way to class.

“We have a high-poverty school and we’re always wondering if our kids have eaten,” said Cynthia Lawson, Leestown Middle School principal. “Breakfast helps their brains turn on and it gives them energy to attend to their learning.”

The program began during the 2014 school year. Students choose from fresh fruit, fruit cups, smoothies, biscuit sandwiches, juice and milk. Since qualifying for the CEP program, the school has increased student participation in breakfast to 90 percent.

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FSA Administrator Val Dolcini checks out breakfast item selections at Leestown Middle School in Kentucky.

Dolcini also toured the Locust Trace AgriScience Center. According to the center’s website, it is the newest career and technical high school in the city with energy and environment being key factors in the facility’s design. In addition, the center focuses on agriculture education, including gardening on 6.5 acres. It also has an ultramodern greenhouse with an aquaculture area for raising fish, a soaring auditorium, an expansive equine barn, an arena and an on-site veterinary clinic.

“At Locust Trace, I saw students preparing for careers as veterinary technicians… just one example of the ag-related job opportunities that are found throughout rural America,” said Dolcini.  “Agriculture creates real opportunity for Americans of all ages, but especially for the nation’s young people. You can farm or ranch yourself, but you can also find great job opportunities in many industries related to agriculture.”

Dolcini said the Kentucky tour was informative and also rewarding to see education opportunities improving on multiple fronts.

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