Grape-to-School Pilot Program Brings Concord Grape Juice to New York Schools

Earlier this month, American Farmland Trust, as part of the collaborative initiative Farm to Institution New York State, joined students, teachers, and other staff at Armor Elementary School in Hamburg Central School District for a special New York Thursdays lunch. Hamburg is one of ten school districts across the state featuring a taste test of New York State Grown & Certified Concord Grape Juice this spring as part of the Grape-to-School Pilot Program.

Developed in partnership with the State of New York, Grape-to-School builds upon existing Farm to School and No Student Goes Hungry initiatives in New York state to help introduce New York State Grown & Certified Concord Grape Juice to schools as an additional option to help reach their New York grown foods purchasing goals.

Taste testing new local products, like the New York State Grown & Certified Concord Grape Juice, creates a low-pressure environment for both students and food service staff to promote a school culture of food curiosity and ultimately expand their school lunch menu. By offering smaller portions of new and potential menu items, taste tests increase the likelihood that students will try something new.

Taste tests are especially effective when coupled with educational programming about the new food item or opportunities for students to participate in preparation. A review process at the end of a taste test – asking students to vote on whether or not they liked the taste test item – gives students agency over their school meal options and gives the school food service staff confidence in which new items would do well on the lunch menu.

In Hamburg, the featured “Growing Grape” juice cups, processed by New York Juice Company with Concord grapes sourced from Westfield Maid Cooperative, were part of a locally-sourced lunch that included beef hot dogs from Slate Foods and milk from Upstate Farms – both also New York Grown and Certified – Marquart Farms’ New York Chips, and Bandit Beans from the Genesee Valley Bean Company. The event, organized by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets in collaboration with Hamburg Central Schools and American Farmland Trust, brought together representatives from the office of NYS Assembly member Sean Ryan, Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest NY, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Erie County, and Slate Foods to help hand out samples and talk to students about farm to school.

As you can see from the photos below, students enthusiastically participated in the festivities and the grape juice was a hit!

Photos by Nancy J. Parisi