A Ripe Opportunity: AFT Launches New York State Farm to School Institute

Stephanie Hsu

New York is home to approximately 36,000 farms. At American Farmland Trust, we know that our efforts to save farmland depend on farmers being able to make a good living from the land they farm.

Since 2013, we’ve led with our partners ‘Farm to Institution New York State,’ or FINYS, a collaborative initiative that aims to strengthen the economic security of farmers and health of New Yorkers by empowering institutions, such as K-12 schools and colleges, to spend at least 25 percent of their food budget on food grown in the state.

Among these institutions, public schools in New York State feed 1.7 million kids every day – and spend $419 million on food annually. These institutions represent a combination of large urban and suburban districts –including the largest school district in the country – and smaller rural schools. This represents much opportunity across New York to connect our state’s farmers and schools.

Over the past year, American Farmland Trust, through FINYS, has worked with four New York schools as part of a special collaboration with Vermont FEED’s Northeast Farm to School Institute. The goal: to pilot and bring an immersive, year-long capacity building experience to K-12 schools in New York. 

Modeled on the longstanding Northeast program, the New York State Farm to School Institute will be adapted for New York’s unique school landscape and policy context. The Institute will kick off with a summer retreat centered on supporting school teams to design, develop, and implement effective, school-wide farm to school programs. Each school team leaves with a “Farm to School Action Plan” for the coming school year and peer networking and coaching to help them along the way.

Farm to School is a win-win, providing kids with fresh, healthy foods while helping to boost New York’s agricultural economy with expanded markets for farmers. On the state level, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s No Student Goes Hungry Initiative in 2018 provided investments and new programs that have the potential to grow Farm to School exponentially throughout New York state. Targeted support through efforts like the New York State Farm to School Institute will help provide schools with the tools they need to best access and utilize the opportunities available through State programs.   

Applications Open for 2019 New York State Farm to School Institute

The New York State Farm to School Institute will help provide tailored support to school teams in creating farm to school programs and navigating policy opportunities. The Institute is designed as a year-long comprehensive learning opportunity for teams of key stakeholders in New York schools, such as food service staff, educators, administrators, and community partners, to develop and refine their Farm to School programs – ultimately bringing more New York grown food into the cafeteria and the classroom.

The inaugural Summer Retreat kick-off will be held on Aug. 12 – 14, 2019, in New York’s Hudson Valley Region followed by a mid-year gathering in Fall 2019. School teams will leave the institute with enhanced technical knowledge and support on how to procure local foods, tools for community engagement, and classroom and culinary education.

Participating schools will receive Farm to School Implementation Awards to encourage early progress in their Farm to School Action Plans with marketing resources or assistance with farm-based activities connecting class to cafeteria. Application deadline is April 12, 2019. Learn more and apply here