The New York Farm to School program helps school children get more nutrition and helps the state's farmers as well. ( Courtesy of Melissa at )

New York school districts can apply for $1.5 million for Farm-to-School programs.

This program helps K-12 schools to increase the purchase of locally grown and produced food for school meals. 

The Farm-to-School program is a key component of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s No Student Goes Hungry initiative. 

“We know that serving our children healthy, local meals means they are better, more productive students and that they are more likely to continue eating healthier foods as they get older,” Cuomo said in a news release. “Programs like Farm-to-School and our No Student Goes Hungry initiative are making a difference in, not only providing nutritious food choices to our students, but also helping to support our farmers.”

Senate Agriculture Committee chairperson Jen Metzger said money, rather than other reasons, often prohibits schools from offering more fresh, local food.

“Financial resources are often a barrier to schools in preparing fresh meals on site, and these grants will enable them to integrate locally-grown foods in the lunch program, and in turn, improve health and nutrition while teaching kids about where their food comes from and the merits of putting real food on the table at every meal, whether at school or in their homes,” Metzger said in the release.

The funding is part of the fifth round of the Farm-to-School program statewide, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said at an Oct. 10 event on the program at Waterfront Elementary School in Buffalo. She participated in a NY Thursdays local lunch with students. 

The Buffalo school district has an enrollment of 38,351 students in more than 60 different schools and has succeeded in reaching the 30% goal of sourcing food from grown in the state. 

The initiative increases the state’s share of reimbursement that schools receive for lunches from 5.9 cents to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30% ingredients from New York farms, according to the release. This school year, districts that reached that goal in 2018-19 can apply for reimbursement under the new initiative.

Grant funding of up to $100,000 per project will be awarded for, but not limited to:

  • Employing a local or regional farm-to-school coordinator;
  • Training of foodservice staff to increase knowledge of local procurement and preparation of locally produced food;
  • Purchase of equipment needed to increase capacity of school kitchen and foodservice staff to prepare and serve locally produced food; and
  • Capital improvements to support the transport and/or storage of locally produced food.

Since 2015, almost $4.83 million has been committed to support Farm-to-School projects across the state, according to the release.

Through the first four rounds of funding, the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets has awarded 43 projects at 255 school districts.

Applications are due by 4 p.m. Nov. 7. Contact Mark McMullen at [email protected] for more information.

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