Measure aimed at supporting New York farmers and providing students with healthy foods
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced two new initiatives to strengthen New York state’s Farm-to-School program, which provides new markets for New York farmers and improves access to locally grown and produced food in schools. Working with the department, Cornell Cooperative Extension will establish a Farm-to-School Coordinator Program to increase local agricultural product procurement in schools on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley, Catskills and the North Country. Additionally, the state is providing performance-based awards to schools across the state that successfully participated in the 30-percent initiative during the 2019-20 school year.
“This past year has certainly been a challenging one for our Farm-to-School programs, with many schools closed, farmers struggling with loss of markets and the food supply chain experiencing many other disruptions due to the pandemic,” Ball said. “The new initiatives announced today will help ensure that our nation-leading Farm-to-School program continues to be one of New York state agriculture’s best success stories as we re-open safely and move New York forward.”
“The board’s commitment throughout the pandemic has been ensuring that children across the state remain as healthy as possible,” said Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. “One way to achieve this is to make fresh, healthy food more readily available for our students. I thank our partners at the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Cornell Cooperative Extension for their efforts in advancing the critical Farm-to-School Program in New York state.”
“The state’s Farm-to-School program not only provides our children with access to healthy, nutritious food, but also educates them on local food systems and agriculture,” said Education Commissioner Betty A. Rosa. “The last year has underscored the food access disparities that exist in communities across the state, the Farm-to-School program is a vital resource that can improve equity while also benefiting local producers.”
Farm-to-School Coordinator Program
To ensure smart, strategic, and sustainable farm-to-school expansion in New York state, CCE Harvest NY, which has been leading the Farm-to-School efforts in Western New York, is establishing four regional farm-to-school coordinators in areas that are currently not well served by existing programs. These coordinators will facilitate connections between food supply chain partners, campuses and their communities to boost program success. Additionally, CCE will create a dedicated program director who will help design and guide existing farm-to-school efforts across the state, ensuring consistency with statewide program goals while meeting regional needs and opportunities.
Regional coordinators will be added to areas around the state currently without sufficient support. Areas include Long Island, Hudson Valley, Catskills and the North Country, with a long-term goal of both increasing the volume and variety of local farm products purchased by school food authorities and increasing coordination among regions.
Other goals of the program include:
- Facilitating idea sharing between regions
- Assisting schools to meet procurement requirements
- Coordinating local connections between farmers and producers
Farm-to-school coordinators are critical to an individual SFA’s ability to scale up local procurement efforts. This new initiative will support an equitable effort to implement farm-to-school programs across New York state, provide direct assistance to kindergarten through 12th-grade supply chain stakeholders and streamline administrative support and leadership. Funding for the coordinators comes from the 2020-21 local assistance budget for farm-to-school programs.
“Cornell Cooperative Extension could not be more excited to partner with the Department of Agriculture and Markets on this critical next step in farm-to-school expansion,” Cheryl Bilinski, Agricultural Economic Development Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension said. “Coordinators are vital to increasing local procurement efforts among our SFAs across the state and ensuring our great New York State farms can benefit from this tremendous market opportunity. We commend and thank Commissioner Ball and his staff for their unparalleled leadership in farm-to-school.”