St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Farm-to-School Program in line for nearly $100K support in next state budget
CANTON – St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Farm-to-School Program could receive $99,980 as part of $1.5 million awarded to 16 Farm-to-School projects aimed at increasing the use of New York farm products in schools and boosting the agricultural economy.
The local BOCES project provides value-added processing, technical assistance, and product distribution to 21 schools benefiting 25,000 students.St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Food Service Director Artie Frego said, "I attribute the success of our Farm to School program to the strong partnership between the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County. The relationship we have built thanks to this grant funding has had a measurable impact on getting fresh, locally grown produce in school cafeterias throughout our region.
“We are also fortunate to have a strong partner in Big Spoon Kitchen, which sets our program apart by allowing us to provide schools with ready-to-eat products," Frego said.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County Executive Director Patrick Ames said, "Extension is incredibly proud to be a partner in the Farm-to-School movement. The work undertaken by Extension's Local Foods Program over the past few years, including the creation of the Harvest Kitchen, has helped make this unique program possible.
“To my knowledge, we are the only Farm-to-School Program in the state providing fresh cut and processed fruits and vegetables to our school dining services,” Ames said. “The efficiency this creates makes it much more realistic for our schools to take advantage of buying local. The work of our processing partner, Big Spoon Kitchen, is invaluable."
Steve and Gayle Fobare, owners of Fobare's Fruits in Rensselaer Falls, said, "Farm-to-School has been an amazing program which has became a big part of our business and livelihood. We appreciate the opportunity to be part of this program and to be able to supply our local schools with a locally grown high quality apples. We would like to thank everyone involved for their hard work and dedication that it takes to make programs like this work."
This is the fifth round of funding awarded to support farm-to-school programs in schools and educational organizations. Since the launch of the Farm-to-School program in 2015, 43 projects have benefited 526,000 students in 356 school districts, the governor’s office said.
State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, "One of New York agriculture's best success stories is its Farm-to-School program. Through the support of the program, our school districts are taking incredible steps to serve fresh fruits and vegetables and locally produced meats and dairy products from New York farmers, bringing thousands of students food and beverages that not only taste good but that are good for them."
The program’s grants are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2020-2021 budget proposal.
The Farm-to-School program increases the volume and variety of locally grown and produced food in schools, provides new markets for New York's farmers, improves student health, and educates young people about agriculture, according to a press release from the governor’s office.
The statewide program is to be used to hire Farm-to-School coordinators, train food service staff, provide nutrition education in classrooms and cafeterias, purchase equipment to support food preparation, and support the purchase of more local farm products, such as fruits and vegetables, dairy, and beef used in school lunches.