|A task force charged with identifying best practices for implementing culturally and religiously inclusive school calendars and serving school meals that accommodate more dietary restrictions was formed, according to a release from Gov. Ralph Northam.
“When our school environments reflect the history, values, cultures, and traditions of the communities they serve our students are better positioned to learn and thrive,” said Northam. “The Task Force on Culturally Inclusive School Meals and Calendars will identify best practices in promoting knowledge about religious observances within our schools and explore how school nutrition programs can ensure students have access to meals that suit their dietary constraints and honor their cultural practices.”
The Task Force is divided into two subcommittees, one focused on developing recommendations on how to offer more diverse school meal options to students who come from different religious or ethnic backgrounds, and another focused on exploring best practices in the implementation of culturally inclusive school calendars.
“Virginia’s schools benefit from increasing cultural, religious, and ethnic diversity—this diversity is a great asset, but also presents a challenge as schools strive to serve students of a variety of backgrounds equitably and compassionately,” said Secretary of Education Atif Qarni. “This Task Force will provide recommendations to school divisions and higher education institutions that are seeking to expand meal offerings and recognize important religious and cultural holidays such as Eid al-Fitr, Ash Wednesday, Lunar New Year, Yom Kippur, Diwali, and other days that may not be acknowledged on school calendars but bear significant cultural importance to many students in our classrooms.”
Secretary of Education Atif Qarni chaired the first meeting of the Task Force on Culturally Responsive School Meals and Calendars in late May. The Task Force includes students, parents, educators, local school division leadership, school nutrition experts, faith leaders, and representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry, No Kid Hungry, the Virginia Association of School Superintendents, the Virginia School Board Association, the Virginia Parent Teacher Association, and the Virginia Education Association.
The task force includes members from Richmond, Chesterfield, Blacksburg and other areas. It is scheduled to meet biweekly throughout June and July to identify best practices and form recommendations. In August, members will present their recommendations to the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, and a convening of superintendents, school nutrition directors, higher education representatives, school board members, and other relevant stakeholders.