The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has been awarded a $110,000 USDA Food and Nutrition Service grant to grow its Farm-to-School program. The grant will support producer readiness training that will help New York’s farmers access the farm-to-school market, and provide the tools, resources, and connections needed to sell their farm products to schools across the State.
“Farm-to-school programs are key to our agency’s goal of connecting more New York farmers with new markets and ensuring that more New Yorkers have access to fresh, local, nutritious foods. I’m proud that we have been selected to receive this prestigious USDA grant so that we can help more producers get their products to kids who need them most,” Commissioner Ball said in a press release.
The project will deliver the USDA Farm-to-School Producer Training, Bringing the Farm to School, piloted for 50 farmers across the state. The comprehensive training curriculum offers producers a well-planned program delivered with a multi-pronged approach of experiential, peer-led, and action-oriented learning. The program aims to serve New York’s diverse and underserved agricultural communities while strengthening regional partnerships and establishing connections with New York producers. Trainings provide interested farmers and producers with the tools to access school markets and to help them develop plans to bring their goals to life. Training will also provide a pathway for New York farmers and producers to understand how collaborative efforts between school districts and producers generate new partnerships, revenue streams and local, sustainable food systems.
Additionally, the project offers a pathway for farmers to understand how collaborative efforts between schools and producers generate not only partnerships and new revenue streams, but also the opportunity to create sustainable food systems and strong communities. Connecting the dots between farmers and schools supports local procurement efforts in USDA Child Nutrition Programs, addresses barriers identified by schools working to procure local and regionally produced food, and equips farmers with a pathway to sell to new markets.
The project will be administered by the Department with trainings delivered by American Farmland Trust and Cornell University.
The New York State Farm-to-School Program launched in 2015 to increase the purchase of local food by school districts and individual schools. It has grown from a $325,000 program in 2015 to $1.5 million in 2022. A total of 57 school districts or not-for-profit organizations working with schools and farms have received over $6.3 million dollars since 2015 to support farm-to-school efforts across New York State.
Farm-to-school is also key component of the State’s No Student Goes Hungry initiative and the State’s 30% NYS initiative. To incentivize school districts to use more New York farm products, the initiative increases the school lunch reimbursement from $0.059 per meal to $0.25 per meal for any district that purchases at least 30% of ingredients for their lunch program from New York farms. As part of her State of the State commitment to better connect farms and schools across New York, Governor Hochul directed the Department of Agriculture and Markets to take the lead on administration of the 30% NYS Initiative as of July 1, 2022 in order to enhance participation in the program statewide.
The Department recently announced it was taking applications for reimbursement for the 2021-2022 school year. Any NYS food product purchased and used in the reimbursable meals for the school lunch program may contribute toward the 30% NYS Initiative. Applications are due August 15. Find out more about the program and how to apply at https://agriculture.ny.gov/30-percent-initiative.