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$1.5 Million Available to Support NYS Farm-to-School Programs
New York Ag Connection - 08/10/2018

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo Thursday announced that $1.5 million is available for eligible school districts to support the growth of Farm-to-School programs across New York State ahead of the upcoming school year. The program helps Kindergarten through Grade 12 schools to increase the volume and variety of locally grown and produced food on school menus, improve student health, and educate young people about agriculture. The program also assists the agricultural economy, providing additional business to New York's farmers. Funding for the Farm-to-School program was doubled in the State's 2018-19 Budget and is a key component of the Governor's No Student Goes Hungry initiative.

"The Farm-to-School program is a win-win that brings fresh, local produce to children in our schools and spurs growth for farmers across this great state," Cuomo said. "By committing an additional $1.5 million to this initiative, we can increase the number of schools serving locally-sourced meals to students and continue our support for New York's agricultural industry."

"The nutrition children receive at school is an important part of their overall health and growth," said Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul. "With this innovative program we are ensuring that children across New York have access to locally grown fruits and vegetables. New York is home to world-class farm products, and the Farm-to-School program delivers results for kids in school and farmers in every region of our state."

Applicants eligible for Round 4 of the Farm-to-School program include Kindergarten through Grade 12 school food authorities, public schools, charter schools, not-for-profit schools, and other entities participating in the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, or the Summer Food Service Program. Entities working with school food authorities and eligible schools are also eligible to apply. The state is seeking proposals that will increase the capacity of schools to procure and serve locally produced food items in school meal programs.

Grant funding of up to $100,000 per project will be awarded for projects such as:

- Employing a local or regional farm to school coordinator;

- Training programs for food service staff to increase knowledge of local procurement and preparation of locally produced food;

- Purchase of equipment needed to increase capacity of school kitchen and food service staff to prepare and serve locally produced food; and

- Capital improvements to support the transport and/or storage of locally produced food.

Since the Governor launched New York's Farm-to-School Program in 2015, $1,825,000 has been invested to support 25 Farm-to-School projects benefiting 164 school districts across the state.

All applicants to the Farm-to-School Program must register and apply through Grants Gateway. Proposals must be received by Oct. 1 by 4 p.m. For more information, contact: William Shattuck at William.McMullen@agriculture.ny.gov.

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 to connect New York's farmers to new markets. It is a key component of the Governor's No Student Goes Hungry initiative, first introduced in his 2018 State of the State Address. The initiative is a comprehensive program developed to provide students of all ages, backgrounds, and financial situations access to healthy, locally-sourced meals from kindergarten through college. In addition to expanding the Farm-to-School program, the No Student Goes Hungry program also includes legislation to expand access to free breakfast and put an end to lunch shaming, and policy changes to ensure students in kindergarten through college receive access to farm-fresh foods in a quality-learning environment.

To incentivize school districts to use more local farm-fresh products, the initiative also includes a groundbreaking program: an increase in the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from the current 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30 percent ingredients from New York farms.

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "We have seen an incredible interest in the Farm-to-School program from our school districts across the State. More schools are looking to connect to the farmers in their community and bring in local products for the entire plate, from hot dogs to salad greens and milk. The Governor's No Student Goes Hungry imitative will be a game changer in the way we feed our school children and I am thankful for his commitment to ensuring our children are getting the nutritious, good food they need to succeed at school."

Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, "Governor Cuomo's commitment to bringing foods from farms to schools statewide continues to help students learn about healthy eating. OGS is proud to partner in this effort by administering the USDA pilot program that has now grown to serve more than 260 schools."

Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Patty Ritchie said, "When we put more locally grown foods in school lunchrooms, it's a win-win that helps improve student nutrition, as well as boost the bottom lines of New York's hardworking farmers," said Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie. "I have been proud in recent years to advocate for this important program, and am looking forward to seeing how it further grows New York's leading industry."

Assemblyman and Agriculture Committee Chair Bill Magee said, "The Farm-to-School remains an important initiative which builds on our efforts to promote the purchase and distribution of New York foods. I look forward to our students having access to more locally grown foods and products, and to connecting our farmers to new markets."

Marissa Silverberg, Farm to School coordinator, East End Farm to School Project, said, "The New York State Farm-to-School grant has been instrumental in building up many of the great local programs already happening for years within our school districts on the East End of Long Island. While each district's food service team has led the way to creating healthy meals and utilizing local produce when possible, this grant has allowed for hands-on training and food service staff support, additional equipment to support availability of local options, and a Farm-to-School Coordinator to provide outreach and education to students and staff alike alongside coordination of local produce purchasing. On behalf of the Bridgehampton, Southampton, and Tuckahoe school districts, we are so grateful to have had this opportunity to enhance Farm-to-School within our schools and promote the importance of buying local across our communities."

Moira Tidball, Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension, nutrition issue leader and Farm to School coordinator, Round 1 and Round 3 grantee, said, "Our Farm-to-School grant from NYS Ag and Markets has really provided the impetus and support to get fresh, local products into our schools in Seneca County, something that was not happening to any great degree before. By introducing both new and familiar local foods to students, we are also able to reach their families with nutrition information on the importance of eating more fresh fruits and vegetables grown right here in NYS. While hard to believe in our agricultural county, because of Farm-to-School some students ate fresh strawberries and butternut squash for the first time in their lives. We were even able to help one district source locally produced hot dogs as part of the program. Because of Farm-to-School, our youth, families, and producers are experiencing positive health and economic benefits that would otherwise not be felt."

George Edwards, M.A., coordinator of the Garden to Cafe Program and Project Manager for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program at the New York City Department of Education/School Food, said, "The New York State Farm-to-School program has helped us highlight for students the importance of local foods, how they can be used on the student's lunch tray, and how their school gardens can help with that. The program has also helps us introduce to students produce they initially are hesitant to try, only to see them ask for more once they realize the fruits and vegetables taste good."

Ruth Pino, food service director for the Saranac Lake CSD, said, "The NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets Farm-to-School grant helped us to hire a Farm-to-School Coordinator, which allowed us to make many advances in our program, from aggregating our Harvest of the Month produce order with other regional schools so that we could improve pricing to bringing more garden-based curriculum into the classroom. We were also able to reach out to and involve more farmers and utilize the Hub on the Hill for minimal processing. The program really is a win, win!"

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has also been a partner in the NY Thursdays program that brings locally grown or produced foods directly to students in New York City schools on Thursdays. In September 2017, the Governor announced that five school districts in Broome and Tioga Counties were the first to launch a NY Thursdays program in Upstate New York. In May 2018, Oneida-Herkimer-Madison (OHM) BOCES and Oneida County Cornell Cooperative Extension hosted a NY Thursdays with "New York Food Day," a celebration of the Mohawk Valley Farm-to-School initiative across 18 school districts in the region. Students were served a 100 percent New York lunch, which featured foods and beverages grown or produced in the State.

The New York State Office of General Services has also been a partner in the expansion of the Farms-to-School programs through the USDA Unprocessed Fruit and Vegetable Pilot Project. The number of schools participating in the 2017-18 school year has grown to 261 schools serving over 51.3 million lunches annually.

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