HARRISONBURG — An integral part of the school day and important to the success of a student's ability to learn is healthy school lunches. A hungry child is not a successful learner. 

Area schools will celebrate the importance of school nutrition with Farm to School Week this week and National School Lunch Week next week. 

The first week of celebrations is a statewide effort that highlights agriculture, farmers and the efforts of school divisions to source locally grown and produced products to create breakfast and lunch menus, said Andrea Early, executive director of school nutrition for Harrisonburg City Public Schools. 

Over the years, the school division has made it a priority to highlight local farmers in school meals, but Farm to School Week kicks it up a notch with even more locally sourced meals and by bringing in local farmers to talk with students. 

"It helps connect kids with the food they eat," Early said. 

On Monday, employees of A Bowl of Good, a Harrisonburg restaurant, came to Waterman Elementary School and brought two soups for students to try. The vegetable soup and chili featured locally grown vegetables and locally sourced ground beef. 

At Spotswood Elementary School, a local dairy brought milk and did a presentation about the process that milk goes through from cow to carton. And at Smithland Elementary School, produce farmers brought a variety of organic fruits and vegetables for students to try. 

On Wednesday, all of the elementary schools will take part in the "Crunch Heard 'Round the Commonwealth." At 10 a.m. students will bite into locally grown apples to create a resounding crunch and to highlight local apple growers. 

Next week is National School Lunch Week, a general celebration of school nutrition programs, Early said. 

The focus next week will be inviting families to dine with their children, something that is allowed and encouraged throughout the year. But the school division will go out of its way to invite parents for a complimentary lunch to give them a sense of the foods that are being served, and to spend time with their children. 

Rockingham County Public Schools is celebrating Farm to School Week on Wednesday with a special menu at each of the schools that will feature products from Pilgrim's Pride in Timberville, potatoes from Valley Farming in Dayton, broccoli from Portwood Acres in Port Republic, and apples from Showalter's Orchard and Greenhouse in Timberville. 

FFA students, farmers, School Board members and others from the community will help prepare and serve the meal. 

Contact Megan Williams at 574-6272 or mwilliams@dnronline.com. Follow Megan on Twitter @DNR_Learn

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