ALBANY — As the school year begins in New York, six teams representing nine New York state school districts are ramping up their farm to school programs.
Farm to School teams from the East End Farm to School Project (Southampton Union Free School District, Tuckahoe Common School District, Bridgehampton School District), Forestville and Pine Valley Central School Districts, New York City Department of Education Office of Food and Nutrition Services, Perry Central School District, Tri-Valley Central School District, and Windsor Central High School stepped away from their summer plans to join us at the Omega Institute Center for Sustainable Living for the launch of the inaugural New York State Farm to School Institute on Aug. 12-14, 2019.
This immersive three-day retreat offered content-specific trainings, speakers including New York State Senator Jen Metzger, New York State Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, and New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball, and visits to the Poughkeepsie Farm Project and Hudson Valley Farm Hub. Most importantly, the retreat provided school teams with the space and time to meet and develop an action plan to improve, or launch, their farm to school program throughout the coming year.
Publicly funded K-12 schools in New York serve nearly 1.7 million students every day with more than half receiving free and reduced-price school lunch. Schools can play a critical role in both improving access to and consumption of healthy, local foods for schoolchildren while expanding market opportunities for farmers. The New York State Farm to School Institute is a comprehensive year-long learning opportunity for New York schools to develop and refine their Farm to School programs, and to help bring more New York food into the cafeteria and classroom.
The Institute provides support for participating schools that is tailored to New York’s unique landscape. School teams – comprised of school nutrition professionals, educators, administrators, farmers, and community partners – will leave with enhanced technical knowledge and support on how to procure and prepare local foods, tools for community engagement, and classroom and culinary education. Upon completion of the Institute, schools will become alumni members of a NYS Farm to School Institute Network – continuing to share best practices and resources with others championing farm to school for years to come.
“The Farm to School Institute gave Perry Central School District the time to work on our Farm to School action plan which helped us connect with our administration to jump start our Farm to School project. The value of networking with other schools from across the state about their projects, especially NYC, made our goals seem reachable!” – Megan Burley, Agriculture Teacher and Farmer, Cornell Cooperative Extension Essex County
“New York’s Farm to School program has been a big success, but needs to expand much farther across the state. The school cafeteria is the perfect place to help children learn about the value of eating local and the need to support the farmers who grew it. The Farm to School Institute was a great opportunity to discuss how schools, farmers, and governments can collaborate to bring fresh, local food to students and the inaugural class of the Institute is pioneering a model we hope to replicate many times over.” -Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo, Chair of the Assembly Agriculture Committee
“The team from the Windsor Central School District is incredibly grateful for the unique opportunity to attend the inaugural New York Farm to School Institute. During our time at the Institute, we had the great opportunity to collaborate, network, and plan with colleagues and various stakeholders in the field of agriculture. We know that the only way to create the most impactful Farm to School program for our Windsor students is through learning from those who have previously been in our shoes (or boots!) and have already experienced success with this important work. We have returned to Windsor excited about our learning and the plan we have created to enhance cafeteria, classroom, and community engagement. We are confident that we are set up for success as we didn’t walk out of the Institute alone. With the assistance of our coach we are certain that the Windsor Land Lab will be a place of optimal learning as students and the community engage in a variety of activities that connect them to the origin of food systems.” – Barbara Phillips, Director of Learning, Windsor Central School District
Participating schools left the summer retreat with completed Farm to School Action Plans and momentum to push their programs forward with the support of their team members. They will all reunite in the Hudson Valley this fall to share the results of their initial Action Plan implementation and to continue to expand their Farm to School knowledge with additional trainings and from each other.
About the Institute: The New York State Farm to School Institute is organized by Farm to Institution New York State, a collaborative initiative led by American Farmland Trust, in collaboration with Poughkeepsie Farm Project, and the Hudson Valley Farm Hub, and made possible by funding from the NoVo Foundation, The Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, and members of American Farmland Trust.
–New York State Farm to School Institute
American Farmland Trust