$500,000 Available to Help School Districts Buy and Serve Fresh, Healthy New York State Products
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the second round of funding is available through the state’s Farm to School Program. The program helps school districts across New York State establish stronger relationships with local growers and producers and increase their use of homegrown specialty crops. Building on the success of 2015, $500,000 in grants is available for projects that help Kindergarten through Grade 12 schools buy and serve healthy, locally grown foods on school menus.
“This program is a win-win that connects students in need of healthy meals with New York grown products that are some of the best in the world," Governor Cuomo said. “I urge all qualified districts to participate in this program and help New York students succeed and New York farms thrive.”
The Farm to School program is aimed at developing and strengthening connections between the more than 700 school districts in New York State and the farmers in their communities to grow the agricultural economy and to provide a greater and more diverse selection of specialty crops during school lunches. The program also looks to educate students about locally produced specialty crops and increase their preference for these healthy meal options. New York State produces a wide range of specialty crops, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts, dried fruits, herbs and spices, which rank highly in the nation in terms of both production and economic value.
Projects eligible for this funding must increase the volume and variety of local specialty crops procured by schools/districts for inclusion in school meal programs. Applicants may includeKindergarten through Grade 12 school food authorities, charter schools, not-for-profit schools, other entities participating in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Programs and/or operating Summer Food Service Programs, and Indian Tribal Organizations. All applicants must register and apply through the Grants Gateway portal here. The deadline to apply is 4:30 pm on October 5. For more information on the Farm to School Grant program, please click here.
Last year, six Farm to School programs were awarded, benefitting 45 school districts from Western New York, Mohawk Valley, Capital Region, North Country, Finger Lakes and Southern Tier. The funding helped the districts employ local or regional Farm to School coordinators, purchase supplies and equipment needed to increase the capacity of the school kitchen and food service staff to prepare and serve locally produced specialty crops, and to make capital improvements to better transport and/or store those crops. A list of awarded projects from 2015 may be found here.
Ruth Pino, Director of the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative and Food Service Manager for Saranac Lake Central School District said, “This funding has been incredibly helpful to our program. It has allowed us to hire a Farm to School Coordinator, which has allowed us to organize efforts between all three districts in our Farm to School initiative. It has also allowed us to move forward with the goals of this initiative.”
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “I thank the Governor for his commitment to this important issue and to our many partners in agriculture and in New York’s school system for their dedication to ensuring New York is connecting its schools to its farmers. It’s good for our growers and producers who are reaching new markets and it’s good for our students who are learning about where their food comes from. I’m proud to see how far we’ve come in delivering local, farm-fresh foods to our school children across the State one plate at a time.”
Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said, “When it comes to good health, local crops are always the best source of good nutrition. New York’s school children are fortunate to have locally produced crops on their school menus. Establishing this partnership between our farmers and the state’s schools is a win-win for everyone involved and bodes well for a healthier future.”
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie said, “Eating fresh, nutritious foods is important for everyone—and it’s especially important for growing children. I have been proud to advocate for funding of this vital program, and look forward to seeing not only how it helps young people across the state improve their health, but also how it helps boost our agriculture industry, as well as expand markets for New York’s hardworking farmers.”
Assembly Agriculture Committee Chair Assemblyman Bill Magee said, "I appreciate the importance of teaching sound nutrition and healthy eating habits to children, and I applaud Governor Cuomo for recognizing the many advantages of connecting locally grown, fresh, farm products to our school lunch programs. I encourage our school districts to apply for this opportunity to offer the best products of our New York farms to our New York school children."
Jim Liebow, New York State Lead for National Farm to School Network and Food Service Director at Brockport Central School District said, “Once again, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is ready to support Farm to School efforts with grant funding! This year’s Request for Proposals will allow more school districts to start or further build upon their Farm to School Programs. The time to plan is now, so get your team together and discuss your needs to keep the local food movement growing in your district! These grants are a great way to help, whether it’s just at your school/ district, or with a neighboring district. Remember, the goal is to increase the volume or diversity of products you can source locally.”
Mark Bordeau, Director of Food Services for Broome Tioga BOCES said, “As interest in farm to school programming continues to grow, this opportunity to apply for grant monies is the foundation that districts need to start sustainable programs that are not only economically positive, but also huge nutritional impact on our students. New York State is very rich in resources for districts to take advantage of in developing and obtaining goals for their project.”
The Farm to School Program is made possible by funding through the FY 2016-2017 New York State Budget and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Program, which allowed New York to offer an additional $150,000 to applicants this year. It was first announced in 2015 as a result of the Governor’s Capital for a Day in Rochester. During the day-long event, state officials joined leaders from the New York Apple Association, Farm Fresh First, Empire Potato Growers and New York State Vegetable Growers, Brockport School District, and New York City School Support Services to examine first-hand the needs of the school districts and the purchasing process, and how to make it easier to bring the two together.
About the Department of Agriculture and Markets
The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ mission is to foster a competitive food and agriculture industry that benefits producers and consumers alike. The Department, through its various divisions and programs, works to promote the agricultural industry and its world-class products, foster agricultural environmental stewardship, and safeguard the State’s food supply and agricultural animals to ensure the growth of the industry.
The Department operates the Great New York State Fair, and administers the Taste NY initiative, the FreshConnect and new New York State Grown and Certified programs. Follow the Department on its Facebook page and on Twitter.
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