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Lake Placid schools sign onto farm-fresh food oath

December 30, 2013
By JESSICA COLLIER ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education signed on to a commitment to using more local, farm-grown foods by 2015.

The district's new food service consultant, Carl Bowen, visited a recent school board meeting to tell board members about the changes he plans to make in the way the district's schools feed their students.

"We're happy to have him on board," district Superintendent Roger Catania said as he introduced Bowen to the school board.

Article Photos

Carl Bowen, the new food service consultant for the Lake Placid Central School District, tells the school board last week about an agreement to include more locally raised food in school meals.
(Photo by Jessica Collier)

Bowen, who graduated from LPHS in 1999, also works at Mountain Lake Academy in Lake Placid as the director of food service, purchasing and maintenance. He said he has some connections with area farms through his work there already, and he wants to continue to build relationships so he can get more food for Lake Placid public schools from those farms.

The agreement states that the district is committed to buying 15 percent of its produce from a 250-mile radius by 2015, when seasonally possible. Bowen said he would like to shoot for a smaller radius than that, but he left it at a wider one in the agreement because it's so hard to find local produce in the Adirondacks in winter. He said he's also trying to get local eggs and other goods.

"We can't do it 100 percent year-round, just because of of where we live and the growing seasons, but my goal is to do as much as we can," Bowen said. "And I think we'll exceed that."

He said he plans to have taste-testing days when people can try samples of proposed menu items and give them a yay or nay. He also wants to post a menu board outside the cafeteria to let students know about his efforts, and he wants to meet with teachers and other faculty and staff to encourage them to eat cafeteria meals more. He said he has seen teachers sitting in the cafeterias eating McDonald's meals or subs from outside the school.

"That's setting precedents with the kids: 'Even my teacher or principal or whoever, they're not eating the food,'" Bowen said.

The agreement also has the district supporting school gardens under the supervision of a certified professional gardener. Incorporated in that is getting a waiver from the state Department of Health, which Bowen said is necessary for schools to serve garden-fresh food. He said a professional gardener, rather than a teacher supervisor, is important to make sure the plants are safe to eat.

"It needs to have some sort of guidance," Bowen said.

Bowen said he works with students on several gardens at Mountain Lake Academy, and people from the local garden club volunteer to come there to supervise the gardens. He expects it to work the same at the public schools.

High school senior Erin Weaver, along with several teachers and members of the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative, asked the school board in September to consider signing on to the commitment, which Saranac Lake schools have already signed on to. Since then, Bowen has looked over the agreement and made some changes that made school board members more comfortable with it.

School board member Phil Baumbach said he wasn't sure he wanted to sign an open-ended agreement. Bowen said the agreement was never really thought of in terms of a time limit.

"It's just, could we meet these goals and maintain these goals," he said.

School board members said they would take a regular look at the program to ensure it is cost effective and helping students eat better, starting at the end of the 2014-15 school year.



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