Perdue Farms, with a $100,000 grant from the Franklin P. and Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, has partnered with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank headquartered in Verona, Va., to establish two high school food pantries in the Shenandoah Valley. The "Good Food School Market" has continued to provide students and families in need with access to nutritious food since schools closed in March amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Thanks to funding provided by Perdue Farms, the new “Good Food School Market” concept has provided nutritious meals to students in Harrisonburg, Va., and Rockingham County during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The funding enabled the Food Bank to open school pantries at Harrisonburg High School in the City of Harrisonburg and at Broadway High School in Rockingham County. When the schools closed, a monthly School Market mobile distribution was added to the Harrisonburg City Public Schools meal distribution outreach. Students in need at Broadway High School receive bags of groceries sent to their homes.  

"We recognize that many of our students rely on school meals to meet their nutritional needs. We are grateful for this partnership with the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, which has allowed us to supplement our meals with additional healthy foods, both during the regular school year and the COVID-19 closure," said Andrea Early, executive director of school nutrition for Harrisonburg CityPublic Schools.

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The Perdue gift aligns with the company's "Delivering Hope To Our Neighbors" hunger relief initiative focused on providing access to nutritious protein for people struggling with hunger and making meaningful progress toward ending hunger. In January, the Perdue Foundation announced a $1 million donation to support 10 of its Feeding America®-affiliated food bank partners in celebration of the company's 100th anniversary. 

The Good Food School Market program was created after the Food Bank led conversations with community partners. The goals were to identify strategies to address food needs among a large and diverse teen population throughout the greater Harrisonburg region. The first School Market launched at Harrisonburg High School in the fall of 2019.  Broadway High School's School Market distribution began just three months ago — at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. 

"The Good Food School Market distribution provides grocery bags of wholesome food, including fresh produce for students and their families in need. These supplies are vital to the health and development of young people working to create their futures," said Michael McKee, CEO of the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. "That's why this initiative taking place in partnership with schools is so important, and we're grateful for Perdue's generous donation that makes it all possible." 

"We want to do all we can to assure that our neighbors in need in our communities have access to wholesome foods, especially during this uncertain time," said Kim Nechay, executive director of the Perdue Foundation. We've seen firsthand in other communities the value school pantries provide to ensure food-insecure students and their families have access to an easily accessible place to acquire supplemental supplies of nutritional food. The Blue Ridge Area Food Banks' 'Good Food School Market' is a perfect example of a program that can make a real difference in the communities where our associates live and work. We are honored to have been able to help make this happen."