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New Educational Resources and Opportunities to Support Farm to School

On the heels of National Farm to School Month, Farm to Institution New York State, or FINYS, has much to celebrate: the release of several new educational resources in the Local Food Buyer Learning Center. For schools and other institutions, the resources will support their procurement and preparation of local foods and the progress of school teams participating in the 2019-2020 New York State Farm to School Institute.

FINYS (pronounced “finesse”) is a collaborative initiative led by American Farmland Trust to dramatically expand the volume of food grown on local farms that is served in institutions across New York.

The FINYS Local Food Buyer Learning Center provides resources and training tools to support institutions in starting or growing their purchases of food grown or raised in New York. These resources include the Local Food Buyer Toolkit and New York Grown Food Guides — launching in November. These guides offer information and resources to support institutions in identifying, sourcing, and procuring top agricultural products grown in New York, including preparation tips and recipes for foodservice professionals.

You can find the first two Guides, featuring New York cabbage and Concord grapes, on the Local Food Buyer Learning Center. Within the Guides, institutions can find information about availability, pack sizes, grading and quality characteristics, distributors, recipes, and other resources. The Guides are the perfect companion to statewide Harvest of the Month and New York Thursdays programming, and, along with the Local Food Buyer Toolkit, 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.

The first module of the Local Food Buyer Toolkit, “Getting Started: Building a Solid Foundation for Farm to School” is a great place to begin organizing around Farm to School efforts. This module highlights the importance of building a solid Farm to School team, defines the parameters around Farm to School, and helps with action steps in planning your school team.

Complementing the exciting new resources in the Local Food Buyer Learning Center is watching the progress of the six participating school teams in the inaugural New York State Farm to School Institute. This fall, our statewide Institute school teams are following the ‘Farm to School Action Plans’ they developed at the summer retreat to bring more New York grown food into their cafeterias, classrooms, and communities.

In the cafeteria, these districts are developing and introducing seasonal menus, participating in Harvest of the Month and New York Thursdays, evaluating and improving their procurement, and providing professional development opportunities for their school nutrition professionals. In the classroom, Institute schools are finding ways to incorporate Farm to School into new and existing curricula and developing field trips and other experiential learning opportunities. And, they are engaging their communities through fall harvest events and increased promotion of their Farm to School programs.

From giving students agency over the contents of their lunch through taste tests and surveys, to having them develop marketing materials, to expanding Farm to School committees to include student voices in decision-making, Institute schools are creatively finding ways to involve students in the development of their Farm to School programs.

We have a lot to celebrate this Farm to School Month and it’s not just our new resources — Farm to School is an exciting program that brings more local, healthy foods to students, while expanding markets for New York farmers, a true win-win!

Want to keep updated on new tools from the Local Food Buyer Learning Center and learn more about how New York State Farm to School Institute schools are finding success? Sign up to receive updates from Farm to Institution New York State!

About the Author
Ashlea Raemer

New York Regional Program Coordinator

araemer@farmland.org

(518) 581-0078

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