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Paper to highlight school nutrition

October 2, 2014
Editorial , Lake Placid News

As educators, farmers and government agencies promote National Farm to School Month in October, the Lake Placid News will be launching a series on school nutrition to explore what local schools are doing to connect students to fresh food grown in the region.

National Farm to School Month was created after the U.S. Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which includes new standards for the National School Lunch Program.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was championed by First Lady Michelle Obama as part of her Let's Move! campaign, and it put in place new standards for school food service providers, including:

-Ensuring students are offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week;

-Substantially increasing offerings of whole grain-rich foods;

-Limiting calories based on the age of children being served to ensure proper portion size; and-Increasing the focus on reducing the amounts of saturated fat, trans fats and sodium.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act established a Farm to School Program within the USDA to improve access to local foods in schools and named October National Farm to School Month.

As we take a snapshot of the nutrition initiatives in our local schools, we'll look at all aspects of the farm to school program: serving healthy meals in school cafeterias; improving student nutrition; providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities; and supporting local and regional farmers.

The New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets also has a Farm to School Program. Its mission is to strengthen local agriculture, to improve student health and to promote regional food systems awareness. Every year, the program promotes a Farm to You Fest, encouraging school districts to celebrate their farm to school initiatives. It will be held from Oct. 5 to 11 this year.

A New York State Farm to School Survey of food service directors found that schools around the state are providing a number of farm to school opportunities for students. They include: garden-based learning; school garden; food, nutrition and agriculture curriculum; taste tests; cooking lessons; and nutrition education.

Schools are planting gardens, serving special meals featuring New York state products, visiting farms and farmers' markets, celebrating the Farm to You Fest and incorporating education on New York state food and agriculture into the school curriculum.

Yet incorporating farm to school programs in schools isn't always simple. The survey identified the following concerns among food service directors: meeting school specifications; food safety; complexity of purchasing the farm-fresh food; inconsistent quality; unreliable delivery; and expense.

Overall, the benefits of farm to school programs reach well beyond the walls of each school; they spill over into the entire community: children, farmers, food service staff, parents, and teachers. Plus, it helps the local economy.

The USDA, New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets and New York State Education Department can help local schools grow their farm to school programs. The federal Farm to School Census shows that 62 percent of schools in New York already offer farm to school programs, so progress has been made.

Locally grown food is making its way onto students' lunch trays, mainly fruit, vegetables and milk. In New York, the top five local foods served in school cafeterias are apples lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes and milk. Local pears, carrots, broccoli, squash, and cucumbers are also making headway.

In the Tri-Lakes region, the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative is promoting more farm to school activities in Lake Placid, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. The Keene Central School has one of the most sophisticated farm to school programs among the public schools in the Adirondack Park. And North Country School in Lake Placid continues to be a nationwide leader in the farm to school movement as a founding member of the Edible Schoolyard Project.

A great resource for local schools is the School Nutrition Toolkit, developed by Essex County Public Health with Keene Central School Nutrition Manager Julie Holbrook.

Getting involved in farm to school initiatives is a worthwhile cause. That's why we'll be highlighting local efforts in our upcoming series on school nutrition. We want to celebrate the established programs and encourage those schools who are falling behind to catch up. The Olympic Region has a chance to show the nation that we've embraced the food revolution and we're a leader in the farm to school movement.

Learn more about the National Farm to School Network at



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