Farm to School Program

The Wayne-Finger Lakes Board of Cooperative Educational Services (W-FL BOCES) created the Finger Lakes Consortium through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farm to School Program, an effort to better connect school cafeterias and students with local farmers and ranchers. W-FL BOCES created the Finger Lakes Consortium with partners Dundee Central School District, Penn Yan Central School District, Geneva City School District, and Romulus Central School (with an impact for 4,748 students across 11 elementary, middle, and high schools).

The Finger Lakes Region is a rich agricultural area in which the community is highly supportive of local farming. WFL-BOCES supports School Districts and each community with technology and services to help smaller and rural schools to achieve the economies of scale needed to accomplish procurement and programs, which are of interest to local farmers and providers.

The Inaugural Live “Finger Lakes Consortium” meeting was held at the NY Wine & Culinary Center in January of 2016. Planning meetings are live and interactive, via HD videoconferencing at a variety of sites across three rural Counties in the Finger Lakes Region of “Upstate” New York. The Finger lakes Consortium is further supported by Superintendents, business administrators, principals, school teachers, staff, parents and many community members.

With support from the Ontario, Seneca and Yates County Cornell Cooperative Extensions (CCEs) and the New York State Wine and Culinary Center (NYWCC) the Finger lakes Consortium will:

  1. Include locally or regionally produced foods in our cafeteria and program offerings, and address the challenges that Upstate New York’s growing / harvest seasons are not a good match for the school calendar. Bountiful water and four seasons allow for significant variety in seasonal food, but seasonal availability is not aligned with the school year.
  2. Develop an efficient distribution system for fresh food from farms to school that address each school’s food transportation and delivery needs. We seek to make use of a variety of programs and resources (described, below) to address processing, distribution and growing season issues.
  3. Participate with State and regional NYS “Farm to Cafeteria” programs and meet with other School District leaders, who have implemented successful programs in cafeteria offerings, hands on learning and standards based curricula for developing the Farm to School Program.

Separately, each group has many years of experience working with school districts for cafeteria offerings, hands on learning and standards based curricula. Since 2006, the New York State Wine and Culinary Center, Cornell University, County Cornell Cooperative Extensions, producers and others have worked with Finger Lakes school districts in order to create Farm to School programs. The Finger Lakes Consortium plans to develop effective distribution processes for available local foods, provide training to food service personnel, and create a unique curriculum for a farm to table program for students.

WFL BOCES Finger Lakes Tech and Career Center (FLTCC) offers Culinary Arts, Animal Science and Conservation programs to participating school districts. A 2016 “Farm to Table” program, will provide students access to a newly established vineyard, a greenhouse, an aquaculture fish farm, and livestock on a multi-acre campus. Students will visit partner farms and farmers to see sustainable farming practices in action and engage in interdisciplinary study with Supervised Agriculture / Agriscience Experience. Ontario County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension has advised our curriculum development.

Timothy Scott Davis from Ontario County’s Cornell Cooperative Extensions will lead our work with the Food Service Directors for meetings an establish relationships with local/regional farmers and producers to create better procurement procedures. We have the full support of the Food Service Directors who are the key people to lead the effort in meeting the challenge of including locally or regionally produced foods in cafeteria offerings. Each school district buys local products when available, from farmers, distributors, produce companies and the NYS Office of General Services (OGS), including Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables.

Gerald Barker is responsible Food Service for all Geneva City Schools and staff, which serve 1,700 students, teachers, employees and food staff daily, from kitchens and a baking area. As the School Nutrition director since 2008, He has 34 years of experience in food service including 22 years in public schools and 12 with independent restaurants, small chains, country clubs, college dining, catering and a contract management company.

Geneva City Schools’ year round food service budget is over a half million dollars, including school breakfast and summer school and lunches and snacks for the Boys and Girls Clubs and Catholic Charities. Geneva is participating in Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) through June 30, 2018 to offer free, nutritious school meals to all students through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs. Both breakfast and lunch are now free of charge to all children in the district's elementary schools.

Dana Burton is the director of food services at Penn Yan and Dundee Central School District. Prior to her current position, Dana was a clinical dietician at Soldiers & Sailors Hospital, Penn Yan, for thirteen years. The Penn Yan Elementary school kitchen uses its own garden produce when available. The Romulus School District (Seneca County) participates in food waste collection to divert food scraps from the waste stream and turn it into high quality compost.

Each school District is responsible for ensuring that nutritious and appealing breakfast and lunch meals are prepared and served to all students of each school district, while complying with the strict federal guidelines of the national school breakfast and lunch program. The schools serve whole grains, fruits, leafy vegetables, dark green vegetables, orange vegetables, starchy vegetables, corn, asparagus, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, brown rice, wheat pizza shells, grapes and milk.

The NY Wine & Culinary Center will expand efforts to bring New York produce into cafeteria offerings and to expand its own hands on learning programs, supplemented with virtual / hands on hybrid standards based curricula. In 2006, the NY Wine & Culinary Center created a Finger Lakes gateway to experience New York agriculture and viticulture. Since then the NY Wine & Culinary Center has supported WFL BOCES and Cornell, Farm to School programs together as well as college and vocational culinary arts educational programs and other activities with NY school districts.