Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS) has created a new 'Local Food Buyer Learning Center' to support institutions in starting or growing their purchases of food grown in New York. The Buyer Learning Center will initially provide modules from a 'Local Food Buyer Toolkit' with additional tools and educational opportunities being added in the future. Sign up for updates to be the first to know when new modules and resources are added!
Institutions, such as schools, colleges and other settings, annually provide meals to millions of New Yorkers — more than six million people in publicly funded institutions alone, including over 1.6 million children in K-12 schools.
These meals can offer a dependable source of nutritious food and improve the health of children, seniors and other vulnerable communities. Institutions are also important players in strengthening New York’s economy. Publicly funded institutions spend nearly $1 billion on purchasing food annually, with K-12 schools the largest sector spending nearly $420 million each year.
Transforming the food economy by increasing the purchase of healthy locally grown foods and keeping food dollars in our local economies will improve the lives of millions of New Yorkers — including children eating meals in school, seniors receiving meals at a center or delivered to their home, and farmers looking to make a better living.
Purpose of the Local Food Buyer Learning Center
The FINYS Local Food Buyer Learning Center offers resources and training to support institutions in starting or scaling up their purchases of food grown in New York. The center’s ultimate goal is to assist institutions in spending at least 25% of their food budget on food grown in the state.
The initial modules are designed for K-12 schools that participate in the USDA School Meal program; however people involved in summer meals, child care and pre-school programs will find the information fits their settings as well. These resources may be useful for other institutional sectors, and future modules will be added that address topics relevant to colleges, emergency food and other institutions.
The first module offered on the Local Food Buyer Learning Center is “Building a Solid Foundation for Farm to School.” Although institutional buyers may want to jump into contacting farmers, or may already be purchasing some New York farm-grown foods, we recommend taking the time to read through this module. Consider building a solid Farm to School core team, articulating the purpose or mission, setting achievable goals, and planning the action steps with your team. Using the tools in this module can help your school establish a sustainable Farm to School program that becomes part of the school culture and is poised to grow each year.
Coming modules will offer resources for menu strategies to incorporate New York-grown fresh and minimally processed foods, finding farmers in order to buy direct, using geo-preference in specifications and informal bid processes, and navigating USDA procurement guidelines and state requirements, such as New York State General Municipal Law.
New York Grown Food Guides
New York Grown Food Guides offer information and resources to support institutions in identifying, sourcing, and procuring local foods from the state. The Guides, along with the Farm to Institution New York State Local Food Buyer Learning Center toolkits, equip food service and procurement staff with education and training to incorporate local products into meals to improve the health of New Yorkers and local economies statewide.
In 2013, American Farmland Trust’s New York office launched a collaborative initiative called Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS) with agricultural, food and nutrition, public health and economic development partners in order to dramatically expand the volume of local farm-grown food served in New York institutions. An intensive evaluation in 2016 led us to hone the FINYS mission:
Mission of FINYS
Farm to Institution New York State will strengthen the economic security of farmers and the health of New Yorkers by empowering institutions to spend at least 25% of their food budget on food grown in New York.
Three focus areas have been identified for FINYS to achieve this mission: advancing public policy campaigns to support institutions in buying food grown in New York; educating institutions about buying locally; and inspiring commitment and framing success.
We thank the many people and organizations that helped guide the development of the Local Foods Buyer Learning Center and continue to share their experience and expertise, including:
- Bridgit O’Brien Wood, Buffalo Public Schools
- Cheryl Thayer, Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest New York
- George Edwards, New York City Department of Education/School Food
- Ray Denniston, Broome-Tioga BOCES
- Ruth Pino, Saranac Lake Central School District
- Julia Van Loon, Slate Foods
- Amanda Watson and Kristen Ricciardi, New York State Department of Education
- Andra Spencer and Ehle Shachter, New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets
- Danielle Fleury, USDA Farm to School
- Vermont FEED Northeast Farm to School Institute
American Farmland Trust is grateful for the support that FINYS received from the Local Economies Project of the New World Foundation, the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, and the NoVo Foundation to facilitate the launch of the FINYS Local Food Buyer Learning Center.
In case you missed it, we held a webinar on March 23, 2018 introducing the Buyer Learning Center and the first module, "Getting Started: Building a Solid Foundation for Farm to School" with tools for recruiting a Farm to School team and cultivating buy-in within your school district and the community. Watch the webinar recording below.
We welcome input on the gaps in knowledge or challenges faced by your institution that you would like to see addressed. Contact us at [email protected].