CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — Many families know how challenging it is to put food on the table, but what if a person is responsible for feeding 41,000 students?

That’s the job of Larry Wade, the director of nutrition for Chesapeake Public Schools. He says nutrition leaders across the country are seeing products that cost 120% more than they did before COVID.

Wade oversee the daily operations for the district’s lunch rooms. However, he also works with his team to increase funding and work with local farmers.

“It’s a partnership,” Wade says. “The more we move towards connecting, collaborating and champion school nutrition meals with every partner that we come in contact with, in particular farmers, it will work to bring cost down. We think that if you don’t have as far to deliver or has many of the overhead cost with taking it to other places around the state – and you can grow it close by and get it to school nutrition restaurants it will save money.” 

Wade was also recognized this summer as one of the nation’s top “Tray-blazers” by General Mills North America Foodservice. 

Wade reports they’ve seen success in building connections with local farmers and used locally-grown produce. The initiative is called “Harvest of the Month.”

“Each month there is a particular produce and vegetable that we serve in our schools,” Wade said. “We did it all of last year and this year we are excited about implementing it again.”

During the upcoming school year, Wade wants to remind Chesapeake families that qualify for meal benefits will receive free breakfast and lunch. He says 24 schools across the district will have free meals for ​all students.