State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today joined leadership and staff from North Shore High School and Cornell Cooperative Extension for a special NY Thursdays lunch and Farm-to-School celebration. North Shore High School served a New York lunch, featuring, for the first time ever, locally caught fish, which is a Long Island staple.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “This is a great day to be Commissioner, celebrating the bounty of New York agriculture with our young people who are getting to experience foods that have been locally grown or caught. I congratulate North Shore for their dedication to sourcing and serving local food wherever they can, supporting our local farmers, producers, and fisherman, and ensuring their students have access to the freshest and most delicious ingredients. The local caught fish on today’s menu is a testament to all that we can accomplish when we work together, and I thank CCE Harvest NY and Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program's "Choose Local F.I.S.H." Program for their partnership in working with our schools to expand their menus with local products from our New York farmers and producers.”
The fish taco lunch included corn tortillas made in Yonkers; fresh tomato salsa from Intergrow Greenhouses in Ontario; Mexican street corn from Headwater Food Hub from Ontario; fresh herbs from Koppert Cress in Cutchogue; and apples from Hudson River Fruit in Milton. North Shore High School has been participating in the NY Thursdays local lunch program and has been purchasing New York agricultural products for its school lunches since 2021.
Christopher R. Zublionis, Ed. D., Superintendent of Schools, North Shore Central School District, said, “The North Shore Central School District is incredibly proud of the innovative partnership between our schools and the Cornell Cooperative Extension, which will allow our students to enjoy healthy, farm-to-table meals that are locally sourced. Not only does this effort illustrate our District's hope to always "think outside the box," but it is a great model that displays to our students how local communities can work together for the greater good of all. We are grateful to Mr. Levin and the Cornell Cooperative for their efforts. Go Vikings! Go!”
Alan Levin, Food Service Director of North Shore School District, said, “Since starting at North Shore Schools, it has been my goal to move towards homemade scratch cooking using healthy, locally sourced ingredients. As the food service director and a parent, I know how important the role school food service plays in creating healthy habits that will last a lifetime.”
Commissioner Ball toured North Shore’s cafeteria and visited with the staff who prepare and cook lunch for their students from scratch, as well as more than one dozen students who were invited for a special taste test of the fish tacos. Following the tour, all high school students were offered fish tacos for lunch or the opportunity to sample the fish. The fish was caught by Captain Dan Farnham from Silver Dollar Seafood in Montauk.
Cornell Cooperative Extension Suffolk Marine Local Fish Program has been instrumental in connecting North Shore with the local fisherman, and the CCE Harvest NY team is working with dozens of schools on Long Island to help expand their purchasing of New York products.
Cheryl Bilinski, CCE Harvest NY Farm to School Program Lead Coordinator, said, “Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest NY is so grateful for our partnership with North Shore Central School District, whose innovative menu offerings not only inspire but capture a signature essence of farm to school – celebrating regional delicacies. Serving locally caught fish serves as a true homage to Long Island’s agricultural bounty, and to our knowledge, the first effort of its kind! We’re also so appreciative of Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Marine Team, whose expertise and producer connections made this celebration possible. We look forward to expanding our partnership with them! Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we want to express our sincere gratitude to the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, who’s one of the biggest champions of farm to school and a true partner in this important work.”
Kristin Gerbino, Fisheries Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension Marine Program, said, “Living on an island, we have an abundance of local seafood options available to us that are sustainable, fresh, and delicious. This collaborative effort recognizes the importance of utilizing this resource in order to support our local fishing communities while connecting us directly with the people and places that provide us with healthy food.”
As part of its continued Farm-to-School program, and efforts to increase the use of locally grown and produced food in New York school districts, New York State funds a team of Regional Farm-to-School coordinators across the State through Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Harvest NY program. This team provides boots-on-the-ground assistance to schools with developing local purchasing programs, connecting with local farmers and fisherman, and working towards achieving the 30% Initiative and participating in the Farm-to-School program. Beginning in 2020, the State has invested over $1.2 million in the Regional Coordinator program.
New York’s Farm-to-School program, which is now in its seventh round, helps Kindergarten through Grade 12 schools increase the volume and variety of locally grown and produced food on school menus. In November, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets announced that $850,000 was available for eligible districts to expand their farm-to-school programs, and a portion of that money was reserved for new applicants, to encourage more participation.