Project designed to help farmers and producers access school markets
√ Builds on New York’s statewide program and 30% NYS initiative
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced the Department of Agriculture and Markets was awarded a $110,000 USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) grant to grow its farm-to-school program. A press release said, “The grant will support producer readiness trainings 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.”
Ball said, “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.”
The project will deliver the USDA “Farm-to-School Producer Training, Bringing the Farm to School,” piloted for 50 farmers across the state. The training curriculum offers producers a program delivered with a multipronged 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.
The press release said, “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.
Stephanie Hsu, Farm to Institution New York state manager, said, “American Farmland Trust looks forward to partnering with New York Agriculture and Markets and Cornell Harvest NY to offer ‘Bringing the Farm to School’ producer trainings to our regional farmers and producers. The training will expand market opportunities for farmers, and bridge the gap between producers and institutions – making local food more accessible to our communities across the state. Farm-to-school is a win-win for everyone: Students and families enjoy nutritious, local food; farmers gain access to a steady market for their products; and money spent by K-12 schools is invested back into local communities.”
Cornell Harvest New York Local Food Systems Specialist Cheryl Bilinski said, “The school food market is a great economic opportunity for New York producers, but understanding how to successfully sell to this market is a pervasive challenge. We’re grateful to the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for their leadership in securing this grant, and are thrilled to partner with both them and American Farmland Trust to support producer readiness training – ultimately leading toward stronger business-to-business relationships between New York farms and New York schools.”
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 since 2015 to support farm-to-school efforts across New York.
The press release said, “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, Gov. 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 2021-22 school year. Any New York state food product purchased and used in the reimbursable meals for the school lunch program may contribute toward the 30% NYS initiative. Applications are due Aug. 15. Find out more about the program and how to apply at https://agriculture.ny.gov/30-percent-initiative.