The HVADC Cultivator
Photo courtesy of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project
2015 Farm Crew
Photo courtesy of the Poughkeepsie Farm Project
HVADC Partner: Poughkeepsie Farm Project
It takes a village, right…? Hudson Valley AgriBusiness Development Corporation (HVADC) is partnering with Poughkeepsie Farm Project (PFP), Poughkeepsie School District (PSD) and Wappingers Central School District (WSD) to implement one of the 12 Farm-to-School projects across New York State announced by Governor Cuomo’s in January. In total, $1 million was awarded, with PFP among the two projects receiving the highest grant level of $100,000.
The New York State Farm-to-School program is designed to connect kids in every grade with local farmers; as well as increase the use of locally grown food on school menus, improve student health, and educate young people about agriculture. The projects awarded will benefit 219,471 students in seven regions across the state. Farm-to-School also supports the expansion of the NY Thursdays Program, a school meal initiative that uses local, farm-fresh foods on Thursdays, throughout the school year. PFP will be using its new state grant funds to enrich its existing USDA-funded Farm-to-School program by increasing the capacity of school nutrition teams to prepare and preserve local farm products, increase the volume and variety of local farm products procured for school meals, expand the program to the Wappingers district, and implement a NYS Harvest of the Month campaign. The expanded project will benefit 15,200 students in the two school districts.
HVADC’s role will include researching procurement best practices and identifying the most applicable, developing a data base of farms that deliver, matching farms to Harvest of the Month list, identifying opportunities for joint procurement and meeting with school service directors.
This is not HVADC’s first foray into collaborating with PFP and partners; several years ago the PCSD project was one of three which won funding through the USDA’s first-ever, Farm-to-School grant. In addition to HVADC, Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress and Upstream Advisors joined forces on the grant. HVADC assisted the school system’s nutrition directors to help procure local foods as more healthful ingredient alternatives and connected them with farmers to buy local farm product. PFP and PCSD worked together on a Farm-to-School project to introduce more fresh, local produce into school meals that has since stimulated a shift in the culture of food among students, staff, and families across New York. To learn more about the project outcomes, please see the Hudson Valley Farm to School Project Final Report.
“We are grateful to New York State for this opportunity to expand our Farm-to-School programming,” said the education director of PFP, Jamie Levato. “Our Harvest of the Month initiative will serve as a framework for linking local farm product purchasing to food systems education for students and professional development for school nutrition teams at two school districts in Dutchess County. The healthy local school meals served at Poughkeepsie and Wappingers schools will benefit both New York state farms and New York state students.”
The PCSD’s nutrition department provides school meals for 4,700 students throughout a school year; some schools offering breakfast and lunch, while others offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The district also provides summer meals at 22 sites throughout the city. The Farm-to-School program is especially important in the Poughkeepsie district, since 86% of students were eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch prior to community eligibility. Procuring ingredients from local farms offers more than nutritional benefits, as it also helps to reduce transportation costs. In the Wappingers district, approximately 40% of the district’s 11,500 students participate in school meals, and 27% are eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch. Moreover, according to the NYS Department of Health, 34% of the student population has a body mass index (BMI) classifying them as overweight and/or obese. Revamping the school lunch program to incorporate locally sourced foods will most directly and positively impact the lower-income students who are also the largest consumers of the school lunch program.
The new grant funds will also allow for even more local farm products to be purchased for PCSD, while expanding to the Wappingers district. Currently, PCSD is purchasing about 10,000 pounds of local produce per year including beets, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, kale, apples, and lettuce. This project expansion will support PCSD in increasing the number of pounds of local specialty crops it purchases per year to 16,000. Last year, WCSD purchased approximately 51,500 pounds of local produce, primarily apples. This project seeks to increase the district's purchase of local produce by 5,000-10,000 pounds in 2018. The NYS Harvest of the Month selections are tentatively include: tomatoes (September.), beets (October), kale (November), squash (December), apples (January), beef (February), potatoes (March), carrots (April), radishes (May), and lettuce (June). In addition to Harvest of the Month selections, PCSD plans to procure locally grown stone fruits and fall fruits to include as part of summer and school meals. WCSD is planning to add cherry tomatoes, corn, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.
“The Wappingers Central School District is thrilled to partner with the Poughkeepsie City School District and the Poughkeepsie Farm Project as part of the grant through New York State to increase the use of locally sourced foods in schools,” said WCSD school superintendent, Jose Carrion. “We continuously seek opportunities to showcase local businesses to help increase our students' awareness of the service they provide to our community. In addition, we are thrilled to have our food service personnel learn new ways to prepare locally grown foods and know it will benefit both our staff and the students. Educating our students on the importance of healthy food choices and that these foods are available in our local grocery stores is a win for our entire community. We will be working with Poughkeepsie Farm Project to share the Harvest of the Month Program using our social media outlets. The grant is a wonderful opportunity to bring our community together.”