Hurley, NY – Food service directors, educators, administrators, and community partners gathered at the Hudson Valley Farm Hub on November 9, 2018 to move forward farm to school efforts in New York State. Four New York schools were selected as part of a pilot program to participate in a year-long professional development program to strengthen farm to school efforts. These schools, including Beacon CSD, Schoharie CSD, Hamburg CSD, and Sidney CSD, attended Vermont FEED’s annual Northeast Farm to School Institute hosted at Shelburne Farms in June to design, develop, and implement effective, school-wide farm to school programs.
The Institute’s three-day intensive allowed school teams to meet with peers and experts to expand their understanding and practices of farm to school. Teams developed an 'Action Plan' for the coming school year in collaboration with an experienced farm to school coach to implement programs and integrate best practices (farm visits, gardening and cooking activities, seasonal foods in school cafeterias, and food-focused STEM classroom curricula).
Beacon, Schoharie, Hamburg, and Sidney school teams reconnected after four months for a lively meeting to check in with coaches and one another on their Action Plan progress. Farm to school workshops and panels on culturally-rich food for cafeterias and classrooms, community engagement, procurement best practices, and farm to school evaluation. School teams shared out successes and challenges, along with new farm to school projects underway with the Implementation grant received as part of the New York pilot program.
“Looking at the [Hudson Valley Farm Hub] packing facility was a real eye opener and really connected the food grown to the harvest and pack to the distribution - we never get to see this part.”
-School Team Participant
With the Hudson Valley Farm Hub’s support, Institute participants were treated to meals created with local, seasonal ingredients adhering to school breakfast and lunch nutritional guidelines, along with a tractor tour of the Farm Hub grounds and operations. Networking with local farm to school community organizations, Farm Hub staff, and school teams closed the day-long event. The four school teams will continue their Action Plans throughout the 2018-2019 school year to grow their farm to school programs at their respective institutions.
A new cohort of school teams will be selected for the 2019-2020 NYS Farm to School Institute. This inaugural state-specific Institute offers a comprehensive learning opportunity for schools to develop and refine their Farm to School programs. Food service staff, educators, administrators, and community partners create comprehensive Farm to School Action Plans focusing on classroom, cafeteria, and community efforts. Applications will open in late January 2019 for the NYS Farm to School Institute. More information will be available on www.finys.org.