A message from AFT's Farm to Institution New York State Team

Dear Reader,

At the end of June, FINYS held our fourth annual New York Farm to School Institute, where six school teams from across the state came together at the Mabee Farm Historic Site. Over the course of three days, the school teams learned about farm to school opportunities, and met with their colleagues and a coach to design action plans for the upcoming school year. We were joined by speakers such as food justice expert Qiana Mickie of QJM Multiprise, farm-based education specialist Jamie Levato of Fareground, Inc., and the chefs from Lenox Hill who led a live cooking demo for food service professionals.

Participants learned about incorporating culturally responsive foods into their menus, building sustainable relationships with farmers, and designing equitable curricula among other topics. We also enjoyed incredible local food from across the state, including wood fired pizzas by Pies on Wheels topped with local vegetables, as well as flavorful farm-to-table Korean fare by Sunhee’s Farm & Kitchen featuring foods fresh from an affiliated farm in Cambridge, NY. New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball came to speak on Wednesday night, and Capital Roots also provided an educational tour of their food hub operation.

Teams worked to develop their action plans, outlining programs such as cafeteria taste tests, harvest of the month education in classrooms, and farm to school program promotion for parents and the broader community. By the end of the retreat, most participants noted that it was “the relationships built throughout this entire retreat” that were the most valuable take away from their experience. We are so grateful to have shared these three days with such a great group of professionals in a gorgeous setting along the Mohawk River and look forward to sharing out the teams’ progress throughout this school year. The next application cycle for the annual NY Farm to School Institute will open in January 2023, and we look forward to continuing to support farm to school programs around the state!

With gratitude,

The FINYS Team


New York State Farm to School Grant Awards Announced

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced that sixteen programs have been awarded over $1.48 million in funding through New York’s Farm-to-School program. Awarded programs across New York serve students in kindergarten through grade 12 and operate in both school districts and through not-for-profit partner organizations. Funding provided through the Farm-to-School program helps schools connect with local farmers, increase the use of locally grown food on school menus, and improve student health, all while providing increased economic benefits to New York’s farmers. This announcement builds on Governor Hochul’s State of the State commitment to better connect farms and schools across New York, including transferring the administration of the National School Lunch Program to the Department of Agriculture and Markets.


USDA Farm to School Grant Awards Announced

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is awarding more than $10 million in Farm to School Grants to 123 projects across the country. Additionally, for the first time, the department is empowering states with $60 million in non-competitive grants to develop stronger and more sustainable Farm to School programs over the next four years. Both actions will help more kids nationwide eat healthy, homegrown foods. The 123 projects funded by the fiscal year 2022 competitive grants will serve more than 3 million children at more than 5,000 schools in 44 states and the District of Columbia.


Applications Open for the 30% New York State Initiative

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball announced that applications are open for reimbursement for the 30% New York State Initiative for the 2021-2022 school year. This initiative increases the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that purchases at least 30 percent ingredients for their school lunch program from New York farms. As part of her State of the State commitment to better connect farms and schools across New York, Governor Hochul directed the Department of Agriculture and Markets to take the lead on administration of the 30% NYS Initiative as of July 1 in order to enhance participation in the program statewide.

SFAs must apply annually to receive the additional reimbursement for the following school year. Any NYS food product purchased and used in the reimbursable meals for the school lunch program may contribute toward the 30% NYS Initiative. Applications for reimbursement for the 2021-2022 school year are now open and are due August 15. Find out more about the program and how to apply at https://agriculture.ny.gov/30-percent-initiative.


Cultivating Collaborations in Farm to School

FINYS is proud to launch a year long farmer focused series, Cultivating Collaborations in Farm to School, which will continue our efforts to foster & strengthen partnerships between NYS farmers and schools to support a resilient food economy. This series is designed in particular for small/mid-scale operations, farmers of color, and other historically resilient farmers in our state. We built the Farmer Readiness Scan to gain more information on farmer supply & interest in sourcing to schools as well as help tailor our technical support to farmers. The goal is to build & foster better connections between farmers and FINYS Institute school teams that make their school food decisions. To offer extra support in completing the Scan, the FINYS team is offering “office hours” in case farmers have additional questions about Farm to School or need help completing the Scan. 

Registration will provide links to the Farmer Readiness Scan explainer video, the FINYS Farmer Readiness Scan tool, & FINYS Team office hours.


News, Events, Jobs, and Funding Opportunities


Farm to Institution New York State is a collaborative initiative led by American Farmland Trust to strengthen the economic security of farmers and the health of New Yorkers by empowering institutions to spend at least 25% of their food budget on foods grown in New York.

Header Image: Farmer Paul Fenton shows tomato crop to Buffalo Public Schools Farm to School team (left), and elementary student in Broome county eats New York state apple (right). Photo credit: Josh Baldo for AFT.

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Contact Us

finys@farmland.org | (518) 581-0078

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