October 26, 2023
Albany, NY

Governor Hochul Announces $10 Million Available Through Round One of New York’s Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program

Governor Hochul Announces $10 Million Available Through Round One of New York’s Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program

Announced During Farm-to-School Month, Program Provides $50 Million Over Five Years to Help Improve Kitchens and Cook Meals for Students Using New York Farm Products

Program Will Facilitate Preparation of Fresh, Scratch Made Meals and Provide a Boost to New York Farmers

Builds on Governor’s State of the State Priorities to Combat Food Insecurity and Strengthen Local Food Production Across the State

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Governor Kathy Hochul today announced, during Farm-to-School month, that $10 million is available through Round 1 of New York’s Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program. The program will support projects in New York schools that improve meal preparation and distribution for Kindergarten through Grade 12 students. First announced in the Governor’s 2023 State of the State, the program will provide $50 million over five years to eligible applicants to facilitate the on-site processing and preparation of fresh, nutritious meals, increase the use of more healthy, local New York food products, and provide a boost to New York farmers.

“Through our Farm-to-School program and our 30 percent New York State Initiative for schools, we have made huge strides in bringing our farmers and our schools together, making lasting connections to purchase more local foods for school meals than ever before,” Governor Hochul said. “This Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program will build on the success of these programs and provide the much-needed support to help schools cook delicious meals for our young people. Providing healthy, balanced meals equals better learning for students statewide and supports our agricultural community at the same time.”

Administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program will provide the resources schools need to aggregate, store, process, and prepare farm products, and make it possible to cook fresh, nutritious, scratch made meals for school children. It will also encourage workforce development by providing training to schools, communities, and students for culinary arts, food processing, safe food handling and storage, logistics, delivery, and more, based on community need.

Project proposals should be regionally focused on improving meal preparation for K-12 school children, reducing food insecurity, increasing market opportunities for New York State producers, and strengthening the resilience of our state’s food system. The program requires that funded facilities serve multiple school districts and support their local community, including by providing workforce development opportunities. In this round of funding, two regions will be awarded $5 million each. Two additional regions will be awarded $5 million each in subsequent rounds, until all regions are awarded.

Grant funds are available for the costs of capital projects to support the preparation and distribution of fresh meals for regional school infrastructure, such as aggregation, storage hubs, and/or commissary-type kitchens. Eligible applicants include not-for-profit organizations, local municipalities, school districts, and Boards of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES).

Proposals are due on Wednesday, January 24, 2024, at 3:00 pm. For more information on the program, project eligibility, and how to apply, visit here. Additionally, an optional webinar will be held on November 29, 2023, at 12:00 pm. To register, visit here. The workshop will be recorded and posted on the Department’s website.

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Currently, many school districts rely on heat-and-serve methods and use highly processed foods because they lack the equipment and time to cook from scratch. The Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program will help regional organizations store, process, and prepare farm products to provide students with fresh-made food, reduce food insecurity, increase market opportunities, and strengthen the resilience of our state’s food system. We thank Governor Hochul for her support of this program.”

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “Currently, many school districts rely on heat-and-serve methods and use highly processed foods because they lack the equipment and time to cook from scratch. The Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program will help regional organizations store, process, and prepare farm products to provide students with fresh-made food, reduce food insecurity, increase market opportunities, and strengthen the resilience of our state’s food system. We thank Governor Hochul for her support of this program.”

State Senator Michelle Hinchey said, “Every school across New York State should have the equipment and capacity to store, process, and cook fresh, healthy New York-grown food, and yet many lack the physical infrastructure to sustain farm-to-school meals, which our students so deserve. The Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program will be instrumental in helping our schools get locally sourced, nutritious food into more cafeterias while expanding market opportunities for our farmers, and I encourage all eligible school districts to apply.”

Assemblymember Donna Lupardo said, “The Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program is a new initiative designed to help schools better prepare meals with fresh, local produce. There are numerous economic and nutritional benefits associated with supporting our local farmers, including strengthening local food systems and providing better quality meals. Additionally, the workforce training requirement will ensure that all parts of the supply chain are being improved. I’d like to thank Governor Hochul for advancing this important initiative.”

President of the New York School Nutrition Association Caitlin A. Lazarski said, "The Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program will provide opportunities for schools across New York State to continue to provide high quality, fresh, and local foods to their students. Many schools do not have the space or equipment needed to process and prepare food directly from our regional farms. This funding will reduce the barriers to providing these foods to our children."

New York State’s Fiscal Year 2024 Enacted Budget includes additional tools to help school districts procure and purchase farm products from local producers, ensuring that New York remains New York's first and best customer. Specifically, the Budget raises the discretionary threshold for food purchasing for schools to $150,000, a significant increase from the previous threshold.

These initiatives build on New York’s many programs to support local foods in schools, including the successful Farm-to-School program, which connects schools with local farms and food producers to strengthen local agriculture, improve student health, and promote regional food systems awareness. Through the program, the Department of Agriculture and Markets provides financial, technical, and promotional assistance to schools, farms, distributors, and other supporting organizations to bring more local, nutritious, seasonally varied meals to New York students. The Farm-to-School program supports the New York State Council on Hunger and Food Policy’s priorities to initiate and facilitate public awareness campaigns about the economic benefits of a local farm and food economy; alleviate geographic and economic barriers to improve access to healthy fresh food; and promote well-balanced child nutrition.

The 30 Percent New York State Initiative further facilitates the provision of healthy New York sourced food products to children as part of their lunch meal in school. The initiative increases the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that ensures their school lunches are made up of at least 30 percent eligible New York produced and processed products. Since the Department of Agriculture and Markets took over administration of the program as part of Governor Hochul’s 2022 State of the State commitment to better connect farms and schools across New York, the program has seen increased participation from school food authorities, with a total of 59 school food authorities approved to receive enhanced reimbursement during this school year, up from 51 approved for reimbursement last year. In total, more than $8 million was spent on New York agricultural products during the 2022-2023 school year by schools applying for the incentive. In addition, the Governor's recent actions to support Farm-to-School initiatives included in the FY 2024 State Budget significantly raised the discretionary threshold for schools to purchase local food and food products from $20,000 to $150,000.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

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