$500,000 Awarded to Increase the Use of Locally Sourced Foods in Schools Funding Supports the Expansion of the NY Thursdays Program
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $500,000 has been awarded to seven Farm-to-School projects across New York State to increase the amount of healthy, locally grown foods offered on school menus. The projects, funded through the State’s Farm-to-School Program, will benefit nearly 300,000 students in the Western New York, Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley, Long Island and New York City regions. The program also supports the expansion of the NY Thursdays Program, a school meal initiative that uses local, farm-fresh foods on Thursdays throughout the school year.
“These Farm-to-School programs are a win-win that supports New York farmers and helps ensure our children have access to healthy, locally grown produce,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is one more step toward a stronger, healthier New York for all.”
The funding was awarded to school districts and educational organizations that serve students in Kindergarten through Grade 12. The awards will be used to hire Farm-to-School coordinators, train food service staff, provide nutrition education in classrooms and cafeterias, purchase equipment to support food preparation, and increase the volume and variety of local specialty crops, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, and herbs, used in school lunches.
Projects awarded across the State include:
Western New York
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County, $69,328
Funding will support the Niagara County Farm-to-School Project, which serves 28,272 students. Funding will be used to hire a Farm-to-School coordinator to work with all 10 school districts in Niagara County to train staff on the procurement and use of specialty crops in school meal programs.
East Aurora Union Free School District, $25,906
Funding will benefit 1,800 students in three district schools through the purchase of equipment that will help staff prepare foods purchased from local farmers.
Rural Health Network of South Central New York, $89,023
Funding will support the Southern Tier Farm-to-School Program, which benefits 10,199 students in five school districts throughout Broome and Tioga Counties. Funds will be used to identify and purchase specialty crops from farms certified by the USDA’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) program. It will also be used to make cafeteria equipment and design improvements that are in line with Cornell Smarter Lunchroom research, and allow the district to implement a NY Thursdays program.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Oneida County, $86,000
Funding will be used to hire a Farm-to-School coordinator to work with growers in Oneida, Herkimer and Madison Counties to supply sweet corn and green beans to 20 school districts through Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES. This project will benefit 22,000 students.
Southampton Union Free School District, $94,863
Funding will support the East End Farm-to-School Project, which benefits 1,650 students in three school districts. It will be used to hire a Farm-to-School coordinator, train food service staff, provide nutrition education to students, and integrate more locally produced specialty crops in school meal programs.
Greenport Union Free School District, $68,820
Grant funds will support the district’s Nurturing Links’ North Fork Farm-to-Student Program. This project benefits six school districts with 4,000 students. Funds will be used to hire a part-time Farm-to-School coordinator to train food service staff, introduce more local produce into school menus, and to increase student knowledge of local foods. A portion of the funds will also be used purchase equipment for school cafeterias.
New York City
New York City School District, $100,000
Funds will be used to hire a Farm-to-School Coordinator to help schools in the Bronx buy more locally grown specialty crops. The Farm-to-School coordinator will also assist with menu planning and help educate students about the specialty crops served through the Garden-to-Café and NY Thursdays meal programs. There are more than 222,000 students in schools in the Bronx who will benefit from this project.
The Farm-to-School Program is a major component of the State’s ongoing efforts to increase the amount of fresh, local foods served in schools and connect New York’s farmers to new markets. Since 2015, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has been a partner in the NY Thursdays program that brings locally grown or produced foods directly to students in New York City schools every Thursday. This year, the Department assisted NYC SchoolFood with the expansion of its program to add 100 percent New York beef hamburgers to the school lunch menu. Two Farm-to-School projects awarded this year are helping school districts replicate and strengthen the NY Thursdays program in Upstate New York and in the Bronx.
This is the second round of funding awarded through New York State’s Farm-to-School Program, bringing the total amount invested in the program to $850,000. In 2015, six Farm-to-School projects were awarded a total of $350,000. Those projects are benefiting 45 school districts in the Western New York, Mohawk Valley, Capital Region, North Country, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions. A list of awarded projects from 2015 can be found here.
In addition to financial assistance, online educational resources are now available for schools and organizations currently participating in a Farm-to-School initiative and those looking to implement programs. The Getting Local Food Into New York State Schools is a toolkit that guides schools through the local procurement process. In addition, the Harvest of the Month toolkit offers strategies for starting and promoting the Harvest of the Month campaign, which highlights a different locally grown food in the school cafeteria each month through educational materials and activities such as posters, cooking demonstrations, and taste tests. These resources can be found on the State’s Farm-to-School website here.
The New York State Office of General Services (OGS) has also been a crucial partner in the expansion of the Farms-to-School programs through the USDA Pilot. OGS recently announced that school districts across the state have made a commitment to dedicate at least $2.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture funds toward the federal agency’s Pilot Project for the Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables during the 2016-17 academic year. This investment represents a 400 percent increase over the $500,000 commitment by schools in 2015-16.
The pilot began with six school districts committing approximately $10,000 in USDA funds to purchase unprocessed fruits and vegetables, including apple slices, frozen broccoli and salad mixes. For 2016-17, that number will grow to at least 235 districts, including union free school districts and BOCES in 48 counties.
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Farm-to-School initiative is about feeding children tastier, fresher, and healthier foods, educating them about the importance of eating right, and connecting New York farmers to new customers. We know that healthier students are better students and a stronger agricultural industry means a more robust economy, and so I thank Governor Cuomo for making this program a priority.”
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Through the Farm-to-School program, New York State has created a win-win situation that supports both our farms, economy and children. Providing healthy nutritious foods in schools can help students learn and introduces them to healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.”
New York State Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn M. Destito said, “Governor Cuomo’s Farm-to-School initiatives are helping students learn healthy eating habits while benefitting the growers, distributors, and sellers of locally grown produce. We are excited to see this additional funding being made available as well as the growing commitment by schools throughout New York that are participating in the USDA pilot program for the procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables, which OGS proudly administers on behalf of the State.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Patty Ritchie said, “Good nutrition is a major building block for staying healthy. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to eat fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables – even more so for our growing children. When fresh, locally grown foods are available in our schools, we not only improve the health of our students but we help expand the markets for our hardworking farmers and boost our agriculture industry. I have been proud to advocate for this funding and hope that it encourages our schools to put more fresh, healthy foods in the lunchroom for our children.”
Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee said, “The Farm-to-School initiative is important to me and many of my colleagues, and builds on our efforts to promote the purchase of New York foods. I look forward to our students having access to more local fruits and vegetables, and to connecting our farmers to new markets.”
Cathy Lovejoy Maloney, Executive Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County said, “Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County is honored to receive this grant. This much-needed funding will unify Farm-to-School activities across Niagara County by developing a systemic procurement structure and experiential educational programming designed to enhance the education of our children. Overall, these Farm-to-School activities will promote the health of our communities and strengthen our local food system.”
Mark D. Mambretti, Director of Evaluation, Assessment & Grants for East Aurora School District said, “As a rural school District with over 60 farms in a 15 mile radius, our challenge was not in securing local produce but being able to process and prepare it efficiently. With the equipment we will be able to purchase because of the Farm-to- School grant, we will significantly increase East Aurora's capacity to efficiently, effectively and attractively prepare specialty crops for the 1,800 students in our district."
David Gamberg, Superintendent of Greenport Union Free School District said, "On behalf of a consortium of six school districts on the North Fork of Long Island, I am delighted to be one of only a handful of recipients of the Farm-to-School grant. We eagerly look forward to many opportunities to expand the health and wellness of the students, staff, and families of our respective school communities."
Erin Summerlee, Director of Food and Health Network of South Central NY said, "This grant will help our team of Farm-to-School champions purchase more local food and bridge connections between the classroom and cafeteria. We are excited to work with Broome-Tioga BOCES Food Service, local school districts, farms and distributors to develop a NY Thursdays menu and help agriculture in our region thrive."
The Farm-to-School Program is funded through the FY 2016-2017 New York State Budget and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Program. It was first announced in 2015 as a result of the Governor’s Capital for a Day in Rochester where State officials met with local partners to examine the needs of school districts and how to make it easier to buy local foods.