TOMPKINS CO., N.Y. — When school begins in September, Tompkins County students will return to find newly revised lunch menus featuring more than 25 different locally grown vegetables and fruits in tasty “Harvest-of-the Month” recipes, thanks to a new grant-funded Farm to School buying program coordinated by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County.
Featured recipes for September 2019 will include an entirely local tomato and cucumber salad, and ratatouille made with New York State eggplant, summer squash, bell peppers and onions, for example. Local plums and peaches also will be offered.
“When children get to see, touch, taste and talk about food, they are more likely to try new fruits and vegetables,” says Chloe Boutelle, Farm to School Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County. “This can lead to improvements in diet quality, behavior, and educational performance,” Boutelle concludes.
While local food on the lunch tray is hardly a new concept in Tompkins County schools, this new effort ensures that it will be featured on the menu in all seven districts at least twice a month and, in certain schools, nearly every day. On any given week, locally grown, raised, and minimally processed items will be found on the meal tray, supporting local producers and providing over 11,000 K-12 students with greater access to healthy, local food.
Collaborative menu planning by school food directors in Dryden, Groton, Ithaca, Lansing, Newfield, New Roots and Trumansburg enabled the schools to purchase locally produced ingredients through a geographic preference bid awarded to two New York-based businesses, Headwater Foods of Rochester and Slate Foods of New York City.
This regional bidding process increased school food service demand for locally grown produce by $75,000 but also resulted in an additional $12,790 of local beef being purchased. When combined with purchases of New York dairy and other New York foods, several districts will be within reach of the “30% initiative” benchmark under Governor Cuomo’s ‘No Student Goes Hungry Program’, qualifying them for an additional reimbursement per lunch served as soon as Spring 2020. This could significantly improve school meal budgets overall and their long-term ability to spend more on locally produced ingredients.
A grant of $92,829 to Cooperative Extension from New York’s statewide ‘No Student Goes Hungry’ initiative will fund the Tompkins County Farm to School for two years. Additional partners involved in the planning and delivery of the program include the Park Foundation, Cornell’s Master of Public Health Program, and Tompkins Cortland Community College’s Coltivare Culinary Center. “We appreciate the efforts of Cornell Cooperative Extension, The Park Foundation, and Coltivare in helping us to build beneficial relationships between our local growers and school nutrition in order to serve our students local, healthy, fresh foods.” Says Beth Krause, Child Nutrition Director of Ithaca City School District.
For more information, please contact Chloe Boutelle, Farm to School Coordinator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, (607) 272-2292 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
–Cornell Cooperative Extension Tompkins County
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