City Schools Moving to Healthful, Local Foods

There’s a movement afoot to improve Charlottesville school food, Rachana Dixit writes in today’s Daily Progress, and it’s picking up steam. The city has long employed a dietician in the form of Alicia Cost to feed its 4,000 students, and recently hired allowed Rachel Williamson to manage a food garden at Buford. The national movement in support of local food and the strengthening local food network are making it possible to feed kids more healthful foods than the standard fast-food fare (Domino’s pizza was a major daily offering when I went to WAHS in the early nineties), with the caveat that it’s got to be a) cheap and b) something that the kids are willing to eat. Martha Stafford, owner of the Charlottesville Cooking School, has been hired to come up with some new recipes within those parameters, and has recently been having luck with a black bean and rice taco.

It’s embarrassing how excited I am by this.

11/18 Update: Guinevere Higgins points out that Buford doesn’t employ Williamson—an independent organization does.

11 Responses to “City Schools Moving to Healthful, Local Foods”

  • Minor disclaimer: I was one of the few people who Alicia Cost knew when she moved to town about a decade ago, I’ve known Rachel Williamson since she was a little kid, and I have in the past been a customer of Martha Stafford’s. But since there’s neither blood nor money between any of us, I think this is one of those small-town disclaimers that could probably go on every other story I write here. :)

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  • This is really great and I hope that they’re able to make significant changes in the schools’ menus. My family has been in CCS schools for seven years now and my children have never (and I do mean never) bought lunch at school. They have brought their lunch every single day during that entire time because what has been served in the school cafeteria has been so bad — unhealthy, overcooked, etc.

  • danpri says:

    Go ahead and put out some organic steamed snap peas next to the tater tots. The Naked chef learned this lessor the hard way.

  • To be fair, he started in a mighty tough market. There’s got to be some understanding of what kids are going to be willing to eat, along with a long-term program to expose kids to new foods.

    But, yeah, that was pretty discouraging to watch.

  • Guinevere Higgins says:

    Just to clarify, the City did not hire Rachel Williamson; she is employed by an independent organization that has sought its own funding to support the staff and programs of the Buford Middle School garden. Hopefully one day City Schools will have some dedicated garden education funds, but until that happens, the Buford garden is solely supported by community grants and donations.

    Thanks for re-posting this story; it’s an exciting time for school food and school gardening! And if you’re interested in learning more about the Buford project, you can find it on facebook or check out


    Guinevere Higgins
    board member, City Schoolyard Garden at Buford

  • Barbara Myer says:

    My children have packed lunch, as a matter of course, always. Waldo, school food is/was hideous — it is not embarrassing that you’re excited about this.

    I cannot be the only person in the universe who is bemused/bewildered/verklempt that our children are at home during the summer — because we still need them to help grow the family’s food for the year — and therefore miss most of the school gardens’ productive season.

    Soon, I am sure, my head will explode.

  • Brian Wimer says:

    Some of the ladies pushing for healthier local foods are bringing the fight to a national stage.

    Three moms in Charlottesville have been selected by a nationwide competition to redefine fast food. It’s down to the final 10. If they win, they could receive up to $40k to help promote their idea, and change the face of food in America…
    and more importantly in Charlottesville, where they head up the Charlottesville Food Initiative.

    Check out the “Food for Thought” video they made at
    You’ll have to sign in (it takes about 25 seconds).

    It’s all about how moms know best how to make tasty, economical, healthy food … fast.
    And that we should stop having our meals prepared by colonels, kings and clowns.

  • Guinevere, I just realized that I totally neglected to correct this blog entry when I saw your comment. I’m sorry about that! I’ve corrected my mistake, and appended a note. Thanks!

  • Guinevere Higgins says:

    No worries, Waldo, and thanks! We’re grateful for any publicity this little project can get, so thank you for re-posting the story.



  • Brian Wimer says:

    Round Two! The moms from Charlottesville are back!

    Now they are leading a national campaign vs the clowns of Big Fast Food. It’s called NOMAC: National Organization of Moms Against Clowns. Seriously.

    They just made a video about it:
    Click on the “Food For Thought” entry.

    A few statistics to chew on: The junk food industry directs $1.6 billion in ad revenue at kids in the US every year. It pays off. According to market studies, 40% of kids ask for fast food once a week. 15% of preschoolers ask for it every day. What are they getting? Bad nutrition and early-onset diabetes.
    Of 3,000 fast food franchise kids’ meals offered only 15 meet minimum nutrition criteria.

    Voting happens Monday and Tuesday. Sign in, vote, pass it on.

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