New York State Announces New Initiatives to Connect New York State Schools to Local Growers and Producers

State agencies meet with local stakeholders during Capital for a Day in Rochester to discuss ways to increase the use of fresh, healthy NYS products in schools across the state

Albany NY – (July 10, 2015) -- The New York State Office of General Services, Department of Health and Department of Agriculture and Markets today announced several new initiatives to better connect New York schools to local growers and producers across the state to ensure the use of fresh, healthy foods in school meals across the state and boost the agriculture industry. State agency Commissioners RoAnn Destito, Howard Zucker and Richard A. Ball announced the initiatives as a result of a successful listening session with stakeholders from the agriculture industry and state and local schools during Governor Cuomo's Capital for a Day in Rochester.

Capital for a Day was created by Governor Cuomo to bring state government directly to the people it serves. The day-long event partners state officials with residents, local leaders and stakeholders to examine first-hand the needs of a community and how New York State government can build upon its strengths and make a positive impact on its residents.

During the listening session, the commissioners joined leaders from the New York Apple Association, Farm Fresh First, Empire Potato Growers and NYS Vegetable Growers Association, Brockport School District and the New York City School Support Services, and engaged in a roundtable discussion about how to best work with New York State schools to increase the procurement of New York State food products. The discussion centered on the growers' delivery system and the school districts' needs and purchasing process, and how to make it easier to bring the two together.

The New York State Department of Health (DOH) announced, $6.7 million in grants to 26 organizations statewide to help increase access to healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity in high need communities. Through DOH's new Creating Healthy Schools and Communities program, the Department is working with local organizations to implement strategies to combat obesity and other chronic diseases in high-need school districts and their surrounding communities. Six organizations in Western New York will receive grants totaling $1,448,001. Grant awardees will work directly with school districts and food retailers in these areas to improve access to nutritious foods as well as increase opportunities for daily physical activity.

"Poor nutrition and physical inactivity are major risk factors for chronic diseases like obesity that are plaguing New York State," said New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. "This funding will directly address these issues using proven strategies in communities of need. Our multi-faceted approach helps ensure that these communities have the resources they need to make it easier for people to lead healthier lives."

The recipients of the 6 grants in western New York are:

Grantee School District and Communities Funded Amount
Chautauqua County Health Network, Inc. Cassadaga Valley, Dunkirk, Jamestown, Pine Valley, Silver Creek, Ripley $250,000
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County Lackawanna, Niagara Falls $198,001
Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services Salamanca, Gowanda, Randolph, Yorkshire-Pioneer, Franklinville $250,000
Finger Lakes Health Systems Agency Rochester $250,000
Genesee, Livingston, Steuben, Wyoming BOCES Clyde-Savannah, Lyons, Romulus, South Seneca, Waterloo $250,000
Genesee, Livingston, Steuben, Wyoming BOCES Campbell Savona, Elmira City, Prattsburgh, Waverly $250,000

Grantees from the rest of the state include:

Grantee School District and Communities Funded Amount
Capital District Community Gardens dba Capital Roots Albany, Cohoes, Watervliet $250,000
Clinton County Health Department Northern Adirondack, Chateaugay, Elizabethtown/Lewis, Moriah and Ticonderoga $250,000
Glens Falls Hospital Granville, Hadley-Luzerne, Hudson Falls, Fort Ann $250,000
North Country Healthy Heart Network, Inc. Malone, Salmon River, Brushton-Moira $250,000
Research Foundation for SUNY Cobleskill Walton, Sidney, Charlotte Valley, Otego Unadilla, Richfield Springs $250,000
Seton Health Foundation Hudson, Rensselaer, Troy, Lansingburgh, Schenectady $250,000
County of Broome Binghamton, Deposit, Harpursville, Johnson City $250,000
Oneida Herkimer Madison BOCES Adirondack, Holland Patent, Remsen, Utica, Whitesboro $250,000
Onondaga County Health Department Syracuse $250,000
St. Lawrence County Health Initiative, Inc. Clifton-Fine, Gouverneur, Massena, Norwood-Norfolk, Ogdensburg $250,000
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County Fallsburg, Liberty, Monticello $249,718
Nepperhan Community Center, Inc. Yonkers $250,000
Orange County Department of Health Newburgh, Port Jervis City $250,000
Rockland County Department of Health East Ramapo $250,000
Western Suffolk BOCES Wyandanch Shinecock, Glen Cove $250,000
Western Suffolk BOCES Brentwood, Central Islip $250,000
Fund for Public Health in New York, Inc. North and Central Brooklyn Districts 19 and 23 $249,945
Fund for Public Health in New York, Inc. East Harlem District 4, Brooklyn District 16 $249,845
The Institute for Family Health Bronx Districts 7, 8, 9, 12 $250,000
JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. Statewide Center for Excellence $504,120

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets announced it will soon be releasing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for its new Farm-to-School program. The program will make $350,000 in grants available to school districts statewide for capacity-building to procure and serve locally produced foods on school menus. Eligible applicants includePre-K through 12 school food authorities, charter schools, not-for-profit schools, and other entities participating in the National School Lunch or Breakfast Programs and/or operating Summer Food Service Programs. The RFP will be released in August.

In addition, the Department of Agriculture and Markets also announced the participation of FoodLink in the state's Food Box program. Foodlink, a regional food hub and the Feeding America food bank serving Allegany, Genesee, Livingston, Monroe, Ontario, Orleans, Seneca, Wayne, Wyoming, and Yates Counties, will receive $100,000—$50,000 from the Department of Agriculture and Markets and $50,000 for training from Empire State Development—to serve as the upstate coordinator to increase the volume of local, New York State produce sold in to low-income communities in five Upstate New York cities. Foodlink will use its Urban Farmstand and Curbside Market programs as models for linking local farms to underserved communities. These programs have proven successful since they accounted for the distribution of 100,000 pounds of local produce in low-income neighborhoods in 2014. These programs also lead Upstate New York in the redemption of FreshConnect checks, a New York State incentive to increase the purchasing of local foods by SNAP users.

"The Department has been working hard to connect the dots between our New York State growers and producers and our New York schools statewide, and today, with the help of our partners and stakeholders, we're pleased to be announcing a major step forward in that mission," said Commissioner Ball. "We not only want to make sure that our school children have access to fresh, healthy foods, but also that they know where their meals are coming from. Through these new initiatives, our Farm-to-School program and the Food Box program here in Rochester, we'll help increase the use of New York goods in our schools and provide a boost to our thriving agriculture industry."

The Office of General Services announced it will continue their USDA pilot project for school districts through the 2015-2016 school year with a goal of making the program available statewide within the next two years. The project is designed to create opportunities for school districts to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables using USDA funding. They will work closely with Agriculture and Markets to develop new relationships with farmers, growers, produce wholesalers and distributors.

"I am very pleased to be participating in Governor Cuomo's Capital for a Day and to be working on the creation of a clear path for farmers to get heathy foods into local schools," Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn M. Destito said. "With the greater Rochester area having the highest concentration of fruit and vegetable production in the state, directly connecting farms and schools here is a priority."