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HVADC Involvement: The FINYS Public Plate Report

Apr 15, 2018

The term, a “public plate” describes food served in public and publicly-funded institutions and bought with funding administered by the State of New York.

The term, a “public plate” describes food served in public and publicly-funded institutions and bought with funding administered by the State of New York. Some examples are school meals and snacks, hospitals, universities, childcare centers, prisons, senior centers and food pantries.  There is an established link between those who share the public plate and those who are food insecure and often suffering diet-related diseases. 

The focus on the effectiveness of the public plate in New York was recently brought to light in a report compiled for Farm to Institution by The Drew Institute. Issued in November 2017, the report outlines several benefits of Farm to Institution procurement, including economic development, environmental sustainability and positive public health outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable populations relying on other forms of state support, and rural populations. It also calls to create a loftier goal from spending 10% to spending 25% of public plate dollars on minimally processed New York state produce and supports a Food Metrics Bill to distinguish between food grown or raised in New York State from out-of-state ingredients.  The report calls for elected officials to make further investments in education, incentivizing, training and technical assistance toward farm to school and farm to institution programs. 

HVADC Executive Director Todd Erling sits on the Leadership Team of Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS) which is a collaborative initiative led by American Farmland Trust (AFT) with a goal of making a large and impactful increase of food grown on local farms that is served in institutions across the state. Other participants on the Team include representatives of the AFT, GrowNYC, Hudson Valley Farm Hub, NY School Nutrition Association, Foodlink, New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, SUNY Albany, and Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest New York.  FINYS works with various parties from agriculture, public health, economic development, environment, education, to enact change. The Leadership Team shapes the FINYS programs, and fosters networks to grow implement Farm to Institution across New York State.

“The Public Plate report underscores the importance of taking a holistic approach to supporting the regional food system in New York. HVADC helps foster connections from the farms to the institutional market not only as way to increase farm income, but to also educate consumers at all age levels on the health benefits of fresh, local food through our partnerships at FINYS,” stated HVADC Deputy Director Mary Ann Johnson.

According to the report, In New York, the public plate feeds approximately 6.6 million people annually, which includes people who are food insecure, people living in state-operated facilities and those visiting public places or using public services. Local purchasing is estimated at 10% of the potential reach, which includes some overlapping categories, such as young people who receive subsidized school meals and live in households that get some of their food from food pantries. The report also estimates that by increasing that stake to 25% of public plate dollars, there is the potential to improve the diets and health of those millions of New Yorkers and generate almost $208 million in new economic output in the state. 

Acknowledging that increasing the spending level will require action and input form a diverse stakeholders, the report outlined a list of strategies for advancing farm to institution procurement in the state, including improving the Food Metrics Bill, adopting a goal that publicly-funded institutions spend at least 25% of their budgets on nominally-processed food grown in the state, providing incentives, continuing investment in food distribution and processing infrastructure, and continued support of training and technical assistance for farm to institution programs at schools, colleges, emergency food providers and other publically-funded institutions. 

HVADC has played both an early and active role in the procurement of New York State produce for Farm to School and Farm to Institution initiatives. HVADC was on the project team that received the first-ever United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School grant for the Poughkeepsie City School District, and has also worked on procurement issues and solutions for the Farm to SUNY project for FINYS.  Most recently, HVADC was included in a state grant to work on expanding procuring New York State produce for the Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s involvement with the Poughkeepsie school district and extending it to the and Wappingers Central School District. 

To see the full public plate report visit

photo/header courtesy of FINYS

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