BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — School districts in the Broome-Tioga BOCES region stand to receive thousands of dollars in increased state reimbursement money thanks to the success of a program that puts locally grown, raised and/or processed food items into school cafeterias.
As a result of increasing their “made-in-New York” food use to 30% of all food purchases, the schools are now eligible to receive an additional 19 cents per meal in state reimbursement for every lunch served.
This is the first year the additional reimbursement is available under legislation supported by the governor and state Legislature. Schools are able to receive the extra funds if at least 30% of the food purchased for lunch is from local sources. Reaching the 30% threshold will bring an additional $580,000 in state funds to area schools, enabling them to invest in even more local food purchases.
This past school year, Broome-Tioga BOCES’ 15 component districts sourced more state grown, raised and/or processed foods than ever before, logging a combined total of 1.5 million dollars of New York foods. The increase was made possible in part thanks to a program BOCES called NY Thursday. On one Thursday a month, everything served at lunch is either grown, raised or processed in NY. Menus often feature new, seasonal recipes to highlight the local products available throughout the year.
“We could not have done this without the support of our school boards, administrators, elected officials that represent us in Albany and our community partners,” said Mark Bordeau, BOCES’ senior director of food services.
Over the last three years, BOCES and it’s partners – the Rural Health Network of South Central NY and Cornell Cooperative Exten- sion – have secured over $300,000 in grant funding through the New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets to expand the Farm to School program. The money has gone to purchase equipment, plant gardens, provide educational programs, and hire a program coordinator.
“I’m thrilled that our local BOCES has reached this important goal. It sends a very important message to our students and to the community; that we value healthy, locally sources food and the farmers who grew it,” said Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D- Broome), chair of the assembly committee on agriculture.
Bordeau said the success of the program and subsequent increase in state funding has truly been a community effort. “I am proud that we are able to support local farms and businesses like Cascun Farms, Catskill Cattle, Headwater Food Hub, Russell Farms, Fantasy Fruit Farm & Lupo’s,” he said.
Erin Summerlee, director of the Food and Health Network Program at Rural Health Network, said, “We are thrilled to have worked with the innovative leaders at Broome Tioga BOCES, our community partners, and local farms to reach this tremendous achieve- ment. Farm to School and the NY Thursday program are perfect examples of the impact of institutions buying local, from increasing access to healthy food for students and shaping lifelong habits, to driving significant economic development in the region.”
Victoria Giarratano, executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County, said, “We see great value in the partner- ship with BOCES in the Farm to School initiative. Through this partnership, our nutrition and Ag in the Classroom educators make the connection in the classroom by providing hands-on educational lessons that empathize to students the importance of eating local, how that impacts our farmers and their own health”
BOCES plans to expand the he NY Thursday program to twice a month in 2020.
—Mark Bordeau, Broome-Tioga BOCES