Virginia Western Community College, Roanoke City Public Schools and Roanoke City broke ground on a garden learning center for the Food for Thought: An Edible Educational Partnership on Tuesday at James Madison Middle School. The collaborative community effort will have an impact on children for years to come, helping them learn to make healthy choices.

Food for Thought is designed to educate youth about healthy foods, the environment and the impact of their personal choices. The learning center will include an indoor/outdoor classroom, raised garden beds and fruit trees, a greenhouse, water conservation, a composting center and an amphitheater.

“With this garden, we expose our children to the magic of things growing and the production of food crops,” said Dr. Rita Bishop, Superintendent of Roanoke City Public Schools. “For me the bottom line is we are fighting obesity one tomato at a time.”

Funding and materials for the Food for Thought program are being provided from a number of community sources. The Virginia Western Educational Foundation has raised funds and awareness in support of the program in association with the Roanoke City Council and the school system.

“This is an important program for Virginia Western to support because it imparts the significance of science and health education to students at a young age,” said Dr. Robert H. Sandel, President of Virginia Western. “Through exposure to our College’s horticulture, business and culinary programs, these middle schoolers will see pathways to future careers and lifelong learning.”

The coursework for the Food for Thought program is specifically designed with consideration towards Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Healthcare (STEM-H) education and the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) tests. It includes elements of agriculture, earth science, ecology, anthropology, biology, nutrition and hands-on chemistry and math as they relate to cooking.

“The ultimate goal of Food For Thought is improving community wellness and personal and economic performance by empowering our students and families to make healthier lifestyle choices around food and their environment,” said Cynthia Lawrence, who is the Food for Thought Board of Directors Chair and is a member of the Virginia Western Educational Foundation Board of Directors. “I am grateful to the Virginia Western Foundation and Board and our many community partners for their vision and support of this initiative.  As academic and business leaders, they are helping to shape the future of this region and their confidence has been unwavering, even in a tough economy. For everyone who has had a hand in making Food For Thought a reality, I am eternally grateful.”

For more information about Food for Thought, visit