WASHINGTON — Today, American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food®, released “Growing Resilience: Unlocking the Potential of Farm to School to Strengthen the Economy, Support New York Farms, and Improve Student Health in the Face of New Challenges.” This report revealed that in spite of new and perennial challenges schools face in buying local grown food, continued state commitment to New York’s Farm to School programs could unlock $250 million in school spending on food from New York farms. This would result in bringing high-quality, local food to more than 900,000 students across New York while generating nearly $360 million in total economic impact statewide by 2025—a return on investment of $3.50 for every taxpayer dollar spent.
“Growing Resilience” details the results of AFT’s in-depth look at farm to school policies and programs in New York and focuses on the current and future impacts of New York’s nation-leading Farm to School Purchasing Incentive. This incentive program, first proposed through Governor Cuomo’s 2018 No Student Hungry Initiative and funded in the state budget with support from the legislature, incentivizes schools to increase their spending on food from New York farms by quadrupling their current reimbursement if they spend at least 30% of their lunch budget on New York grown and raised food. The “Growing Resilience” report found that, with continued state support, New York’s farm to school programs are poised to help address the challenges both revealed and precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic by rebuilding a more resilient farm and food economy and encouraging positive child health outcomes.
“Growing Resilience” builds on AFT’s January 2020 release of the report, “Growing Opportunity for Farm to School: How to Revolutionize School Food, Support Local Farms, and Improve the Health of Students in New York,” which evaluated the New York Farm to School Purchasing Incentive after its first year, by further fleshing out recommendations while considering the new and pressing challenges schools have faced during COVID-19 including budget shortfalls, lack of capacity, and supply chain breaks. And yet, despite these challenges 75% of schools, including New York City Public Schools, still anticipate being able to increase spending on New York grown food to reach 30% by 2025 if given the right support.
The “Growing Resilience” report outlines six recommendations to provide schools with the support they need in this time of uncertainty to unlock the New York Farm to School Purchasing Incentive program’s full impact on the farm economy and student health in the future. These recommendations include expanding the program to include an incentive for New York foods served at breakfast, continuing to fund the Farm to School grants program, building capacity by establishing a statewide Farm to School Coordinator program, and addressing procurement, tracking, and supply chain issues.
“The pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities inherent in our global food supply chain, underlined the importance of local farms to a resilient food supply and local economy, and reinforced improving diet as a key public health intervention. New York food service staff have displayed incredible resilience, innovation, and dedication just to feed kids and families in 2020, and the fact that many continue to stay dedicated to farm to school is just, amazing. In spite of the uncertainty and challenges of the moment, that 75% of schools still feel that with the right assistance they could increase their spending on New York grown food to 30% by 2025 to the benefit of our farms, our kids—really everyone, is amazing,” said Samantha Levy, New York policy manager for American Farmland Trust, a lead author of both reports.
She continued, “However, to grow farm to school programs, it’s critical to continue to act and support these dedicated food service professionals and help them get to 30%. We ask that Governor Cuomo and the state legislature prioritize acting this year on the steps outlined in the ‘Growing Resilience’ and the ‘Growing Opportunity’ reports—continuing to fund New York’s farm to school programs and working to expand the incentive to include breakfast, establishing a statewide network of regional coordinators—who are necessary farm to school problem solvers— changing procurement laws, and strengthening farm to school supply chains. Taking these actions will build on the current enthusiasm and not only develop a stronger state economy and future for our farms, but also improve the lives of children and strengthen communities across New York. Frankly, this is the kind of win-win-win that we need in 2020!”
More information, including the report and its detailed findings and recommendations, can be found at www.farmland.org/growingresilience. In addition, On Dec. 15, from 12-1:30 p.m. AFT will be hosting a webinar to share the findings of the report in detail and answer questions from the public. Register for this upcoming webinar here.
“Growing Resilience” is made possible thanks to support from the New York State Health Foundation, the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, and members of American Farmland Trust.
American Farmland Trust is the only national organization that takes a holistic approach to agriculture, focusing on the land itself, the agricultural practices used on that land, and the farmers and ranchers who do the work. AFT launched the conservation agriculture movement and continues to raise public awareness through our No Farms, No Food message. Since our founding in 1980, AFT has helped permanently protect over 6.5 million acres of agricultural lands, advanced environmentally-sound farming practices on a half million additional acres and supported thousands of farm families.
— American Farmland Trust
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