Growing Farm to School in New York State through Programs, Education and Policy - American Farmland Trust

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Growing Farm to School in New York State through Programs, Education and Policy

Photo by Josh Baldo for AFT

October is National Farm to School Month, a time to celebrate the connections happening all over the country between children and local food. From taste tests in the cafeteria and nutrition education activities in the classroom to farm visits and school garden harvest parties, schools, early care and education sites, farms, and communities in all 50 states and D.C. join in the celebrations.

American Farmland Trust has been working to help grow farm to school and broader farm to institution efforts in New York for the last decade through the Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS) initiative. In the last five years, FINYS has led a concentrated effort to support schools in expanding their farm to school programs through the year-long New York Farm to School Institute program. Dozens of school teams have completed the Institute program and are part of the Institute Alumni Network for continued growth and connection with others in the farm to school community.

School teams and coaches at the Institute summer 2023 retreat in Rotterdam, New York.

One of the activities that school teams at the retreat could participate in was a learning journey to the Institute alumni school, Zoller Elementary. Attendees toured the school’s raised bed gardens, and orchard, and received a tasting demonstration. We recently published a story about how their farm to school program integrates locally produced maple syrup and honey, including hands-on experience with maple sugaring at school that teaches core science lessons.

School teams tour Zoller Elementary school garden. Photo by Robert Cooper for AFT.
Brushton-Moria Central School, 2023-24 Institute school team, celebrates Farm to School Month with a “big apple crunch” activity with New York grown apples. Photo provided.

Educating Institutions through the Local Food Buyer Learning Center

Another key component of the FINYS initiative is providing educational resources to buyers at schools and institutions to help them increase the amount of food they purchase and serve from New York farms. The Local Food Buyer Learning Center offers a hub of information to get started in farm to school, along with New York Grown Food Guides that highlight agricultural products in New York with current guides featuring New York Cabbage, Concord Grapes, Tomatoes, Dried Beans, Beef, and – coming soon – the Maple Syrup and Honey Guide!

Advocating for New York Grown Food for New York Kids

Our team also works to advance state policies and funding to bring more farm-fresh foods into schools and other institutions. American Farmland Trust leads the New York Grown Food for New York Kids coalition along with nearly 70 organizations and stakeholders who support increasing access to fresh, healthy, local food for students in K-12 schools. We believe farm to school is a win-win for kids eating in schools and for supporting local farm economies and that anyone who cares about these issues can be an advocate for farm to school. Check out our Farm to School Advocacy Toolkit to learn more, and sign up for FINYS Updates to be alerted to new resources and opportunities to take action!

We hope you enjoyed learning about the work our FINYS team at American Farmland Trust is doing in the farm to school arena – and feel inspired to find out how your school district incorporates locally grown and raised food in the cafeteria and classroom!

AFT’s Farm to Institution New York State team with New York State Commissioner of Agriculture, Richard Ball, at the 2023 New York Farm to School Institute retreat. Photo by Robert Cooper.

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Olivia Fuller

New York Communications Manager


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