HUDSON, N.Y. — When Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $1 million had been awarded to 12 Farm-to-School projects across New York State on January 5, Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) was among the two projects receiving the highest grant level of $100,000. The Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) will partner with PFP, the Poughkeepsie City School District (PCSP) and the Wappingers Central School District (WCSD) to implement the grant.
The New York State Farm-to-School program helps Kindergarten through Grade 12 schools connect with local farmers, increase the use of locally grown food on school menus, improve student health, and educate young people about agriculture. The projects awarded will benefit 219,471 students in seven regions across the state. The program also supports the expansion of the NY Thursdays Program, a school meal initiative that uses local, farm-fresh foods on Thursdays throughout the school year.
PFP will be using its grant to enhance its Farm-to-School program, increasing the capacity of school nutrition teams to prepare and preserve local farm products, increasing the volume and variety of local farm products procured for school meals, expanding the program to the Wappingers district, and implementing a NYS Harvest of the Month campaign. The expanded project will benefit 15,200 students in two school districts.
In 2010, PFP began a partnership with PCSP to increase access to healthy food and work toward community food security. With a two year USDA Farm-to-School grant awarded in December 2012, PFP and PCSD collaborated on a Farm-to-School project that successfully introduced more fresh local produce into school meals and started shifting the culture of food among students, staff, and families. During the school year, the school nutrition department of PCSD provides school meals for 4,700 district students. Some PCSD schools offer breakfast and lunch, while others offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They also provide summer meals at 22 sites throughout the city. The Farm-to-School program is especially important in the Poughkeepsie district where, prior to community eligibility, 86% of students were eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch. The grant, the first-ever for the USDA, was one of only three awarded in New York State. HVADC, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress and Upstream Advisors were collaborating partners in carrying out the grant. HVADC provided assistance to the school system’s nutrition directors, helping them procure local foods as replacements to some of the ingredients that they already purchase, and was able to help them connect with farmers who could supply local products to be purchased by the schools.
Though the years, PFP has continued to offer educational programming for public school students both at its farm and at school gardens that it has helped build at all of the schools in the PCSD. The new grant funds will support increased purchase of food from local farms for PCSD, and will also expand PFP’s Farm-to-School work to the Wappingers district. At WCSD, of the 11,500 students in the district, approximately 40% participate in school meals, and 27% of the district’s population are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch. Additionally, 34% of the student population has a body mass index (BMI) classifying them as overweight and/or obese (NYS Dept. of Health, 2012 -2014). Revamping the school lunch program will impact lower-income students who primarily comprise the students participating in school meals.
“We congratulate the PFP on its recent grant award, and look forward to continuing to be involved with the two school districts. Having HVADC participate in the Farm-to-School program reinforces our vision of fostering viable local food systems and supporting agricultural enterprise while promoting community enhancement,” according to Mary Ann Johnson, HVADC Projects Director.
According to Jamie Levato, the Education Director at PFP, “We are grateful to NYS for this opportunity to expand our Farm-to-School programming. Our Harvest of the Month initiative will serve as a framework for linking local farm product purchasing to food systems education for students and professional development for school nutrition teams at two school districts in Dutchess County. The healthy local school meals served at Poughkeepsie and Wappingers schools will benefit both NYS farms and NYS students!”
“The Wappingers Central School District is thrilled to partner with the Poughkeepsie City School District and the Poughkeepsie Farm Project as part of the grant through New York State to increase the use of locally sourced foods in schools. We continuously seek opportunities to showcase local businesses to help increase our students’ awareness of the service they provide to our community. In addition, we are thrilled to have our food service personnel learn new ways to prepare locally grown foods and know it will benefit both our staff and the students. Educating our students on the importance of healthy food choices and that these foods are available in our local grocery stores is a win for our entire community. We will be working with Poughkeepsie Farm Project to share the Harvest of the Month Program using our social media outlets. The grant is a wonderful opportunity to bring our community together,” according to Jose L. Carrion, Superintendent of Schools, WCSD.
Currently, PCSD is purchasing about 10,000 pounds of local produce per year including beets, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, kale, apples, and lettuce. This project expansion will support PCSD in increasing the number of pounds of local specialty crops it purchases per year to 16,000. Last year, WCSD purchased approximately 51,500 pounds of local produce, primarily apples. This project seeks to increase the district’s purchase of local produce by 5,000-10,000 pounds in 2018. The NYS Harvest of the Month selections are tentatively include: tomatoes (September.), beets (October), kale (November), squash (December), apples (January), beef (February), potatoes (March), carrots (April), radishes (May), and lettuce (June). In addition to Harvest of the Month selections, PCSD plans to procure locally grown stone fruits and fall fruits to include as part of summer and school meals. WCSD is planning to add cherry tomatoes, corn, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
About Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC)
The HVADC is the region’s sole economic development agency with a specific focus on the viability of the agricultural economy in the Hudson Valley. It assists both new and existing agri-businesses such as farms, food businesses and food distributors, by providing technical and business consultation and resources. The non-profit promotes balanced, market-based solutions that lead to enhanced agricultural entrepreneurship, rural economic growth and community enhancement. For more information, please visit: www.Hvadc.org. HVADC produces a monthly-newsletter The Cultivator featuring its initiatives, partnerships and the businesses of its clients. For more information, visit: www.Hvadc.org.
About Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP)
PFP is a farm-based non-profit organization committed to cultivating a just and sustainable food system in the Mid-Hudson Valley. On its member-supported farm in the City of Poughkeepsie, it grows fresh vegetables and fruit for a CSA, trains future farmers, provides hands-on educational programs, and improves access to healthy locally-grown food. In 2010, Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP) and Poughkeepsie City School District (PCSD) began a partnership to increase access to healthy food and food systems engagement. In 2013, PFP collaborated on a USDA-funded Farm-to-School project that successfully introduced fresh local produce into school meals and started shifting the culture of food among students, staff, and families. The Poughkeepsie Farm-to-School Project was designed as a whole systems approach to local food procurement and community engagement within the local food system. For more information about PFP, visit: www.farmproject.org.
—Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation
Poughkeepsie Farm Project