If Expanded, Farm-To-School Plan Would Offer Students Healthy Meals, Farmers A Diverse Market

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As part of his 2018 State of the State address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing to double the funding for a program that connects schools with local farmers, Farm-to-School.

The state currently spends $750,000 on the program, and Cuomo wants to increase that to $1.5 million.

The money can go toward capital costs for transporting and storing food, supporting training, and to hiring farm-to-school coordinators.

One incentive under the proposal: The state will reimburse districts a quarter per meal if they get 30 percent of the ingredients from New York farms. That's compared to the six cents they get now.

"It really helps [farmers] diversify their business. It helps them mitigate risk," said Samantha Levy, policy manager with the American Farmland Trust in New York. "It creates markets for products that are potentially unsellable like small apples or pears, which here, in a state which grows a lot of apples, could be really important."

Research shows that farms in farm-to-school programs keep more money in their local economy than farms that don’t participate.

It would also have a more immediate impact.

"For food insecure children, often times, they’re receiving all three meals from their school and it can be the only dependable source of food for them," Levy said. "To get really fresh, healthy food in front of those children is, I think, maybe one of the greatest things about this program."

Governor Cuomo estimates the proposed plan would serve 652,000 students.

This is a part of Cuomo’s plan to combat hunger in students of all grades, kindergarten through college. Other parts of the plan include ending lunch shaming, requiring schools to make breakfast available after the bell, and requiring food pantries on all SUNY and CUNY campuses.

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