Public Health Toolkit: Best Practices

Established in 1985, New York Agriculture in the Classroom (NYAITC) is a partnership of Cornell University, the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets, the NYS Education Department, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the New York Farm Bureau. The mission of NYAITC is to foster awareness, understanding, and appreciation of how we produce food and fiber, what we eat, and how we live, by helping educators, students, and their communities learn about and engage with agriculture and food systems. NYAITC works with pre-K through middle school teachers, Cornell Cooperative Extension and other community educators, farmers and producers, volunteers, parents, and community partners to increase agricultural literacy in New York State.

Less than 2 percent of our population actually produces food on farms, while nearly 20 percent of our nation's workforce is in some way, shape, or form involved in the processing, marketing, distribution, and sales of food and fiber products. We all rely on agriculture every day--from food we eat, fibers our clothes are made of, and other materials we use each day to agriculture's relationship with our environment, economy, and society. And yet, little is taught in most schools about agriculture and food and fiber systems. NYAITC aims to increase agricultural literacy while supporting opportunities for hands-on teaching and learning, meeting state standards, enhancing student achievement, and connecting with community.

NYAITC envisions a day when educators, students, and communities in New York:

  • Recognize the connection between agricultural production and the daily consumption of food and fiber products
  • Appreciate the economic, social, historical, and scientific significance of agriculture in our local and global society
  • Understand the complexity of today's agriculture and food systems
  • Explore the many career opportunities in all areas of agriculture and food systems

School Gardening

New York Agriculture in the Classroom aims to increase appreciation and understanding of agriculture, nutrition, and the food systems by getting students involved in food gardening at school. Garden classrooms provide authentic experiences and help educators meet New York State and Common Core Learning Standards in a way that gets students excited to learn. To accomplish this goal, NYAITC offers several grants to start or support school garden systems. These include the Kids Growing Food Grant, the High Tunnels in Schools Grant, and the Grow with Us Grant. Each of these opportunities find deserving programs and provide grow systems that will best fit their needs and space.

Nutrition Education

In addition to the focus on school gardening, NYAITC also puts an emphasis on nutrition education, as it is something crucial to developing healthy lifestyles and people. Nutrition lessons for all ages are available on their website.

Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix

The Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix is an online, searchable, and standards-based curriculum map for K-12 teachers. The Matrix contextualizes national education standards in science, social studies, and nutrition education with relevant instructional resources linked to Common Core Standards. With this tool, anyone looking for lesson plans and additional resources can find hundreds of complete lessons, books, and multimedia on a wide variety of topics.

Educator Workshops

Workshops are designed to show how to connect existing curriculum with agriculture and infuse food and garden concepts into your lessns. Using a mixture of Food, Land & People activities and exceptional agriculture lessons from across the country, these trainings will give hands-on experiences to teachers and pre-service teachers. Trainings include CTLE professional development credit hours, the Food, Land & People curriculum, multiple agriculturally accurate books for a classroom library, an experiential-learning based model for delivery, and resources and tools to teach the lessons. Upcoming workshops are posted on their website.

Share Your Best Practices

Across New York State, health professionals are making great strides in improving public health through a wide range of initiatives such as reducing sodium consumption in schools, prompting municipal officials to move toward "walkable" communities and even convincing store owners to remove tobacco advertising. The New York State Department of Health would like to share and highlight your successes, best practices and lessons learned. Public health efforts come in all sizes and shapes – a one-time only poster or promotional giveaway or a multifaceted campaign. Some are more effective than others, but all of them teach us something about reaching audiences and changing behavior. Help others benefit from your experiences, large or small by sharing them with us to highlight on this page.

Examples of best practices

  • Campaign that motivated the community and community leaders to take action
  • Outreach to a hard to reach audience
  • Innovative use of social media or other emerging technology
  • Low or no-budget effort that succeeded beyond expectations
  • A slogan, logo or other branding that effectively communicated with and motivated an audience

If you have a story to tell that others could benefit learning about, please share your knowledge with us by filling in the fields within this PDF and email it to us at Each submission will be followed up on and considered for a chance to be highlighted on this page.