BALLSTON SPA — Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County is a recipient of $36,226 in state funding to support a Farm-to-School initiative.
The money awarded to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County, located at 50 West High St. in Ballston Spa, will be used to build a wash, cure and storage facility and create an agricultural education program for students in Saratoga Central School District that will include farm experience field trips to increase awareness of locally- sourced food.
According to Diane Whittman, Food and Nutrition Educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension Saratoga County, the grant was applied to in partnership with Pitney Meadows Community Farms, Saratoga Springs City School District and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County. She says nearly half of the money will go to capital improvements at Pitney Meadows so the wash, cure and storage facility can be built onsite. The partnership has plans to introduce the program by spring of this year. This includes having produce ready to be harvested by spring, and some students, from the entire district, harvesting them. Whittman says there will be some in-class education about agriculture in Saratoga County and food sourcing.
The Farm-to-School program increases the volume and variety of locally grown and produced food in schools. It aims to improve student health and to educate young people about agriculture. In addition it provides new markets for New York’s farmers. The program 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.
$1.5 million in awards was granted to support Farm-to- School programs across New York. The funding has been awarded to 18 projects and educational organizations that serve students in Kindergarten through Grade 12, and will benefit over 420,000 students.
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Warren County received $93,582 in awards and Capital Roots Inc., a non-profit organization based in Troy, received $97,220.
The Farm-to-School Program is part of the State’s efforts to increase the amount of fresh, local foods served in schools and to connect New York’s farmers to new markets. It is a component of the Governor’s “No Student Goes Hungry” initiative. The initiative is a program developed to provide students of all ages, backgrounds, and financial situations access to healthy, locally-sourced meals from kindergarten through college.
“The long-term goal is to make Pitney Meadows Farm a farm-to-school hub. Any local farms that might be willing to sell to the school could deliver their produce to Pitney Meadows Farm for storage, and then from there the school district could order,” Whittman said.