ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball announced on Wednesday two new initiatives to strengthen New York State’s Farm-to-School program. The program provides new markets for New York farmers and improves access to locally grown and produced food in schools.

The Department of Agriculture and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) will establish a Farm-to-School Coordinator Program to increase access to local agricultural products in schools on Long Island, 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% Initiative during the 2019-2020 school year.

Farm-to-School Coordinator Program

To ensure smart, strategic, and sustainable farm-to-school expansion in New York State, CCE Harvest NY is establishing four regional farm-to-school coordinators in areas that are currently not well served by existing programs. These coordinators will establish connections between food supply chain partners, campuses, and their communities.  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.

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 30% Lunch Initiative Awards

The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted school feeding programs, causing the USDA to extend its Summer Food Service Program. Because this hindered New York’s ability to reimburse schools under the 30% initiative, the Department is providing 55 schools with performance-based awards to help with financial and operational burdens and to support continued participation in the program. Funding for these awards comes from the 2020-2021 local assistance budget for farm-to-school programs.

“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,’ Commissioner 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.”

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