Seal of the Governor

RICHMOND—Governor Ralph Northam today announced the formation of a task force to identify best practices for implementing culturally and religiously inclusive school calendars and providing school meals that address increased dietary restrictions.

“When our school environment reflects the history, values, cultures and traditions of the communities they serve, our students are better able to learn and grow.” said Governor Northam. “The Task Force on Culturally Inclusive School Meals and Calendars will identify best practices in promoting knowledge of religious customs in our schools and examine how school feeding programs can ensure that students have access to meals that meet their nutritional needs and reflect their cultural practices. “

The task force is organized into two subcommittees, one focused on developing recommendations on how to offer more varied school meals to students from different religious or ethnic backgrounds, and another focused on examining best practice in implementing culturally inclusive school calendars .

“Virginia’s schools are benefiting from increasing cultural, religious and ethnic diversity – this diversity is a great asset, but also a challenge as schools strive to provide equitable and compassionate support to students from different backgrounds.” said Education Minister Atif Qarni. “This task force will make recommendations to school departments and higher education institutions trying to expand the food offering and recognize major religious and cultural holidays such as Eid al-Fitr, Ash Wednesday, Lunar New Year, Yom Kippur, Diwali and other days that may not be recognized in school calendars but have great cultural significance for many students in our classrooms. “

Education Minister Atif Qarni chaired the first meeting of the Task Force on Culturally Appealing School Meals and Calendars in late May. The task force includes students, parents, educators, local school leaders, school nutritionists, faith leaders, and officials from the Department 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 members of the task force include:

  • Farah Ahmad | of Gainesville, Community Service, Interfaith and Government Relations Assistant, McLean Islamic Center
  • Sandra C. Curwood of Richmond, State Director, Office of School Nutrition Programs, Virginia Department of Education
  • Megan’s day by Catlett, student and Virginia Future Farmers of America State President
  • Hurunnessa Fariad of Sterling, Head of Outreach, All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS Center)
  • Lindsey Fox of Blacksburg, Interim District Director, Parkway District, Virginia Parent Teacher Association
  • Nina Ha of Blacksburg, director, Asian Cultural Engagement Center, Virginia Tech
  • Heidi Hertz of Richmond, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
  • Qiu Jin of Virginia Beach, Director, Institute of Asian Studies and Associate Professor of History, Old Dominion University
  • Monica Manns of Richmond, Chief Equity, Diversity and Opportunity Officer, Henrico County Public Schools
  • Karishma dealers of Alexandria, Senior Education and Workforce Policy Advisor, Office of United States Senator Tim Kaine
  • Sarah Moran by King George, Registered Dietitian, The Dr. Yum Project
  • Vijay Ramnarain of Chesterfield, Director of Support Services, Virginia Department of Education
  • Adam Russo of Manassas, Director, Office of School Food and Nutrition Services, Prince William County Public Schools
  • Lyons Sanchezconcha of Richmond, Educator, Richmond Public Schools
  • Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky of Silver Spring, Maryland, Director of Intergroup Relations and Rabbi in Residence, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
  • Beth Teigen of Powhatan, Superintendent’s Chief of Staff, Henrico County Public Schools
  • Jonathan C. Zur of Richmond City, President and CEO, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities

The Task Force on Culturally Inclusive School Meals and Calendars will meet every two weeks in June and July to identify best practices and make recommendations. The task force will present its recommendations to the governor’s children’s cabinet and a convocation of school principals, school nutrition directors, college officials, school board members and other relevant stakeholders in August 2021.

# # #