April 15, 2016
Farm-to-school initiative starts
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Jonathan Childs, of Main Street Farms, cleans an assortment of lettuce this morning to be sold at local farmers’ markets. The first steps of a farm-to-school initiative will begin in local parks this summer, which will include the Cortland and Marathon school districts, and will give almost 10,000 students a chance to get food from local farmers.
Cortland and Marathon school districts will give their students fresh romaine lettuce this summer from Main Street Farms in the first steps toward a farm-to-school program.
The agreement came about from ameeting Tuesday at the New York State Grange among farmers, Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES and school districts. Francis Zaryski, school lunch manager for Cortland and Marathon schools, said Thursday the pilot program will enable the districts to work out the kinks in supply and distribution, such as preparation time and how to get the produce to the school in time for lunch.
Main Street Farms owner Allan Gandelman said he is excited to provide lettuce to high schoolers who are just down the road from his Route 215 greenhouse. Hehopes to expand to vegetables, perhaps carrots and broccoli.
The initiative comes about through a $100,000 federal grant awarded in March. The grant partners Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Education Services with schools in Binghamton, Cortland and Marathon to allow nearly 10,000 students to get food from local farmers. Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Food and Health Network of South Central New York are also involved in the program.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first opportunity for face-to-face discussions. Zaryski and Gandelman said Thursday that farmers wanted to know what requirements they must meet to take part in the program.
Gandelman expects he will make two deliveries a week to Cortland schools in July for the summer meals program in the parks.
Zaryski said he will order from Main Street Farms an amount of food below the threshold required to go out to bid. The summer months, with lower attendance and a more relaxed schedule, is a good time to start.
“Salads are very popular,” he said. “Tomatoes and leafy greens are where we’d like to start.”
He envisions offering foods in season, with tomatoes and perhaps pears in the summer and carrots or other vegetables in the fall.
“Fresh tastes better,” Marathon Superintendent of Schools Rebecca Stone said Thursday. “We are looking to provide students with something that’s fresh and local so we can support our farmers around our area.”
In addition, she said students gain pride in the area when they know the people who provide the food they eat. Zaryski echoed that sentiment.
“This community has a lot of opportunities for locally grown products and we need to utilize them. Why buy produce from California when we can buy it from Cortland County?” he asked.
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