New York Attends the Northeast Farm to School Institute

August 23, 2017

New Yorkers Attend the 2017 Northeast Farm to School Institute

“We now have an action plan, and there are so many pieces of that plan that were influenced by what we learned at the institute." 
-Erin Summerlee, Northeast Farm to School Institute Participant 

This summer, FINYS joined two Farm to School teams from New York - Johnson City and Saranac Lake school districts - and ten other New England schools to experience the Northeast Farm to School Institute planning retreat! Three days of learning, team-building, action planning in the “3 C’s” of Farm to School - Cafeteria, Classroom, and Community - launches this year-long professional development program of Vermont FEED. Each school team has at least one food service professional, teacher, administrator and community partner, as well as a coach who also receives training and support from the Institute.

FINYS coordinator Glenda Neff and Jamie Levato from Poughkeepsie Farm Project attended the Institute to learn how the Institute has evolved over 10 years, and how we might replicate this model in New York to grow and deepen the sustainability of Farm to School programs, build networks and scale up purchasing of fresh and minimally-processed foods from local farms. Asked how the Institute will benefit Saranac Lake schools, and could help other New York schools, Food Service Director Ruth Pino said “I feel that having teachers and a principal involved will really change the school's culture regarding Farm to School. Integration into all aspects of school culture seems to be a pretty universal challenge. We need to cultivate more Farm to School champions throughout the school - administrators, teachers, parents, students and cafeteria."

Erin Summerlee, Director of the Food and Health Network (FaHN), a community partner on the Johnson City school team, said: “Having that space to develop your action plan is really important. The retreat takes people out of their normal work environment and gives them a chance to problem solve, build relationships and become a stronger team. Beyond the retreat, the model of having year-long coaching after you develop that action plan would be so beneficial to more schools in New York.” Read more from the Johnson City Farm to School team on FaHN’s blog.

Still Time for Summer Reading!

Two new publications offer a wealth of research, perspectives and examples to use in our Farm to Institution work, fundraising and policy efforts.

The Federal Reserve Board in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture compiled research, essays and reports that explore the potential of locally sourced food to be harnessed to boost economic opportunities for rural and urban communities. These agencies learned that the approaches that support the development of regional food systems not only contribute direct economic benefits to the community, but can also open the door for improved access to healthy food and other positive outcomes that could result in improved community health and a more productive workforce.”

That’s what FINYS partners believe and have seen in Farm to Institution! Be sure to check out Chapter 10: Institutions: An Emerging Market for Local and Regional Foods for insights on farm to institution investments.

This guide published by American Farmland Trust and Growing Food Connections is meant to help communities remove public policy barriers and advance policy solutions to strengthen community food systems. It builds upon successful examples - including many in New York - that ensure communities support local farms and protect farmland, support the infrastructure needed to get food from farm to plate, and provide all community residents with access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food. Download the guide

Foodlink Creating Recipes for Jobs

To bring it all home, read about FINYS partner Foodlink featured in an NPR story on how this food bank invests in the local economy, and in the Rochester Business Journal about plans to create jobs and help workers gain skills in their new food prep, cooking and processing facility.