Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor | Richard A. Ball, Commissioner
Jola Szubielski, Lisa Koumjian 518-457-0752

October 06, 2016

Agriculture Commissioner Announces ‘Fall into Farm-to-School’ Campaign to Encourage New York Schools to Participate in Farm-to-School Program

Campaign Highlights New York State’s Efforts to Bring More Local Foods to School Menus

School Districts Encouraged to Share Farm-to-School Month Celebrations on Social Media

Governor Cuomo Proclaims October is Farm-to-School Month in New York State

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball today announced the ‘Fall into Farm-to-School’ campaign to encourage school districts across New York State to participate in the Farm-to-School program, which helps schools buy and serve locally-grown and produced foods on school menus. Throughout the month of October, which Governor Andrew Cuomo proclaimed as Farm-to-School Month in New York State, schools are encouraged to learn more about starting the program in their district through the Farm-to-School website and related resources found here, here and here. Districts already participating in the program are encouraged to share how they are celebrating Farm-to-School Month using the #FallintoF2S on social media.

“The Farm-to-School program provides valuable health, economic, and environmental benefits to schools, students, and their communities and under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, thousands of children have more access to farm-fresh products than ever before,” said Commissioner Ball. “Farm-to-School Month is the perfect opportunity to educate schools and farmers about the importance of this program and to get them involved. It’s also a terrific opportunity to show students how tasty these fresh, local foods can be. I encourage every school in New York to participate in the program, not just during the month of October, but throughout the year.”

Farm to You Fest

Farm-to-School Month is highlighted by the annual Farm to You Fest held October 3 to 8, 2016. Farm to You Fest is a week-long annual celebration of local food and agriculture. During the promotion, school officials, parents, nutritionists, farmers and others are encouraged to organize fun and educational activities focused on New York agriculture. To celebrate, many schools feature New York farm products on their school lunch menus, hold taste tests of locally-grown fruits and vegetables, take field trips to nearby farms, conduct hands-on cooking demonstrations using local ingredients, and much more. 

Jamie Levato, Education Director, Poughkeepsie Farm Project said, “This October, we ‘Fall into Farm-to-School’ with City of Poughkeepsie Schools by leading literacy, science, and social studies activities in school gardens and hosting class field trips at Poughkeepsie Farm Project. When students have the opportunities to see where their food comes from while exploring farm fields, cooking simple healthy dishes, and learning their academic curriculum in farm and garden settings, they are more interested in eating local food in their school cafeterias, growing their own food at home, and teaching their families new recipes with local produce.”

New York State Farm-to-School Efforts

New York State’s Farm-to-School program is aimed at developing and strengthening relationships between farmers and schools to increase the amount of New York-made products offered to students and to expand markets for local farmers. The program also looks to educate students about New York’s specialty crops and increase their preference for these healthy meal options.

Since 2015, New York State has provided $850,000 for its Farm-to-School grant program, including $500,000 announced this past September, a nearly 43 percent increase over last year. Kindergarten through Grade 12 school food authorities, charter schools, not-for-profit schools, other not-for profit entities, and Indian Tribal Organizations were eligible to apply for this funding to increase their use of homegrown specialty crops. Award recipients will be announced later this year. 

Last year, six Farm-to-School programs in the state were awarded funds, benefitting 45 school districts and thousands of students. The funding helped the districts employ local or regional Farm-to-School coordinators, purchase equipment needed to increase the capacity of the school kitchen and food service staff, and make capital improvements to better transport and/or store those crops. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average New York State school district spends 11 percent of its budget on local foods. To date, those schools have invested more than $45 million, with the majority being used to buy New York fruits, vegetables, and milk.

The New York State Office of General Services (OGS) also recently announced that school districts across the state have made a commitment to dedicate at least $2.5 million in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds toward the federal agency’s Pilot Project for the Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables during the 2016-17 school year. This investment represents a 400 percent increase over the $500,000 commitment by schools in 2015-16.

The state has also been a key partner in the New York Thursdays program, a new approach to bringing locally grown or produced foods directly to students in New York City Department of Education schools every Thursday. Part of a nationwide initiative being spearheaded by the Urban School Food Alliance, New York Thursdays boosts student health and education, while improving the district’s budget, strengthening the local agricultural economy, and cutting carbon emissions. The State Department of Agriculture and Markets is working to bring a similar program to schools throughout the state. 

New York State Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn M. Destito said, “Promoting the foods grown and produced from New York State farms has been a priority for Governor Cuomo, and participating in the Farm-to-School program helps get these products to children statewide. Students love the farm-fresh food and it is a great way to offer healthy eating options during the school day.”

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Access to fresh, healthy foods is paramount to reducing obesity among New York’s youth. Obesity can lead to chronic diseases, including diabetes and cancer. By highlighting farm-fresh foods in schools, we are encouraging students to make healthier choices and live long healthy lives.”   

New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia said, “The Farm-to-School program feeds students physically and intellectually—bringing healthy, New York-grown food into school cafeterias, and opportunities to learn about healthy food and the farms it comes from into our classrooms. I applaud the districts already participating in Farm-to-School and encourage all school districts to ‘Fall into Farm-to-School’ with fun, healthy and educational activities for our students.”

Eric Goldstein, NYC Department of Education Office of School Support Services CEO said, “New York Thursdays provide healthy, locally sourced meals for students across the City, and creates teachable moments for students to connect with the communities around them and learn about nutrition and the local economy. We are grateful to Commissioner Ball and the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets for their support of this program and we look forward to continuing to partner on various innovative efforts to improve the healthfulness and sustainability of the food offerings provided to students.”

About the Department of Agriculture and Markets

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ mission is to foster a competitive food and agriculture industry that benefits producers and consumers alike. The Department, through its various divisions and programs, works to promote the agricultural industry and its world-class products, foster agricultural environmental stewardship and safeguard the State’s food supply to ensure the growth of the industry.

The Department operates the Great New York State Fair, and administers the Taste NY initiative, and the FreshConnect and new New York State Grown and Certified programs.   Follow the Department its Facebook page and on Twitter!

2016 Press Releases