Governor Cuomo announced that six Farm to School programs across New York State have been awarded funding to help increase the use of healthy, locally grown foods on school menus. The programs will serve students Pre-K-12 and operate in both school districts and through several educational partners, including: The Buffalo City School District;Cooperative Extension Association State of New York Schoharie and Otsego Counties; Rensselaer County School District; Saranac Lake Central School District; Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension; and Broome-Delaware-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services.
“Learning healthy eating habits now will serve our children for their entire lives,” Governor Cuomo said. “The Farm to School initiative encourages thoughtfulness about what we eat and leads to better choices when it comes to nutrition. This program simultaneously educates our youth, promotes locally grown foods, and strengthens the connection between farms and schools across the State.”
The Farm to School program is aimed at developing and strengthening connections between farms and schools to help grow the agricultural economy and increase the amount and variety of specialty crops procured by schools for healthier meal options. Funding from the Farm to School program will be used to train school staff in food preparation and procurement, conduct outreach to producers, educate students, and purchase equipment to support food transport, storage and preparation.
New York State produces a wide range of specialty crops, such as fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, herbs and spices, which rank high nationally in terms of production and economic value.
An additional goal of the program is an educational component to increase student knowledge of, and preference for, locally produced specialty crops.
Projects awarded across the State include:
Western New York
Buffalo City School District: Buffalo Public Schools NYS Harvest of the Month Pilot Project, $43,260
Funds will be usedto build on a prior USDA grant by employing a Farm to School Coordinator to expand the work of the ‘Harvest of the Month’ program, which uses new menu items monthly featuring specialty crops.
Cooperative Extension Association State of New York-Schoharie and Otsego Counties: Schoharie Valley Farm to School Project, $60,800
Funds will be used to increase the number of specialty crop producers that sell to schools by hiring a Regional Farm to School Coordinator to train food service staff on how to add fresh local produce to the menu.
Rensselaer County: Rensselaer County Farm to School Project, $61,889
Funds will be used tohire a Farm to School Educator and a Farm to School Coordinator to conduct outreach to farmers and to train food service staff in two districts about procurement of locally produced specialty crops and how to prepare them for school lunch programs.
Saranac Lake Central School District: Multi-County Adirondack Farm to School Initiative, $46,917
Funds will be used tobuild on a prior USDA grant by establishing a shared-resource program in three school districts using procurement, school gardens and curriculum components. A Farm to School Regional Coordinator will provide project coordination, implementation and outreach.
Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension: Seneca County Farm to School Program, $36,179
Funds will be usedto partner with four school districts in Seneca County and hire a Farm to School Educator to increase the number of NY producers selling to schools from six to twelve, to purchase equipment to assist food service staff with preparing fruit and vegetablesand provide Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification to farmers.
Broome-Delaware-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services: Southern Tier Farm to School Project, $74,970
Funds will be usedto employ a Farm to School Coordinator and a Farm to School Consultant to train food staff, purchase specialized equipment to transport specialty crops and to recruit farms, food hubs and processers within a six-county region.
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, which administers the program, received 20 proposals for the Farm to School program. Projects were awarded based on a scoring criteria aligned with program objectives.
This Farm to School grant program was first announced as a result of Governor Cuomo’s Capital for a Day in Rochester. The commissioners from the State Departments of Agriculture and Markets, Health and the Office of General Services joined leaders from the New York Apple Association, Farm Fresh First, Empire Potato Growers and New York State Vegetable Growers Association, Brockport School District and the New York City School Support Services, to discuss increasing the procurement of New York State food products in New York’s more than 700 schools. The discussion centered on the growers’ delivery system and the school districts’ needs and purchasing process, and how to make it easier to bring the two together.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The projects awarded today will help overcome some of the challenges schools may face in sourcing products locally and make it easier for them to increase the use of New York grown foods straight from the farm. We are encouraged by the tremendous response we had from applicants and the growing interest in making sure our schoolchildren have access to fresh, healthy foods, but also that they know and understand where their meals come from.”
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Under Governor Cuomo, New York continues to strengthen the ties between New York’s farms and schools. It is a symbiotic relationship that benefits our local agricultural economy and ensures that our schoolchildren get the nutrient-rich foods they need from local sources. Good nutrition remains a cornerstone of health and well-being.”
New York State Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn M. Destito said, “The Farm to School program will help teach children to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables as part of their meals and as snacks. OGS has already helped bring a number of locally grown products to students and is excited that this program initiated by Governor Cuomo will strengthen that effort.”
State Senator Patty Ritchie said, “When we have more fresh, locally grown foods in our schools, we not only improve student health, we also expand markets for our state’s hardworking farmers. This initiative builds on our prior work to better connect farmers with people who are looking to eat nutritious, locally grown foods, and I’m pleased to see these schools receive funding that will encourage them to put more healthy foods in their lunchrooms.”
Assemblyman Bill Magee said, “My Assembly colleagues, from New York City to the North Country, and I have long been supportive of Farm to School. Last week our Committees on Agriculture, Education and our Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy sponsored a meeting to discuss efforts to expand purchases of New York foods. These grants are a great start and I look forward to our students having access to more healthy local fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat."
W. Averell H. Bauder, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Seneca County said, “We are thrilled that Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension has been chosen to coordinate this project that will bring more fresh, local food into every school in our county. With our connections to agricultural producers, the latest in school nutrition research from Cornell, our youth development experience through 4-H, and great working relationships with our school districts, CCE is in a unique position to partner with school cafeterias to increase the consumption of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables to improve the diets of Seneca County students and help them develop healthy eating habits. We thank the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for seeing the value in such a program and are excited to get started.”
Chris Meyer, Rensselaer Deputy County Executive said, "This grant will help open up new markets for our local farms and provide safe and nutritious products to our local schools, truly a win-win. I want to commend the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for recognizing the importance of this program and congratulate all of the partners who supported this application.”
Mark Bordeau, Senior Food Service Director at Broome-Tioga BOCES said, “Broome-Tioga BOCES and all of our partners including Food and Health Network, Food Bank of the Southern Tier, and Cornell Cooperative Extension are enthusiastic about the award of this grant, to explore and expand our efforts of procuring New York State agricultural products for our students.”