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Farm to School Project wins state award

 

Strawberries fresh from school garden

Farm to School Project wins state award

The East End Farm to School Project, a coalition of the Bridgehampton, Southampton and Tuckahoe school districts, has been awarded a $99,389 grant from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, which will enable the districts to continue their impressive farm-to-school program.

Since 2017, the Farm to School Project has allowed the three school districts to access locally sourced, nutritious food and provide education to promote the health and wellness of their students, staff and greater community. It also provides for monthly taste tests to thousands of students and incorporates popular Harvest of the Month recipes into the cafeteria menu.

Farm to School Project wins state award

In 2020, the partnering schools continued the project by teaming up with the East End Food Institute, a nonprofit Southampton organization whose mission is to support, promote and advocate for local producers to design and implement a distribution system that delivers local food to schools. With the assistance of Heather Meehan, then-manager of East End Food Institute’s outreach and education division, the districts continued to provide service despite the challenges of COVID-19. Emergency grants were secured by Meehan and a new “Farmer of the Month” initiative was initiated. Harvest of the Month taste tests also continued, with fresh local apples from the Milk Pail, butternut squash from Halsey Farm and kale from Balsam Farms.

"This has been a challenging year due to the pandemic,” said Regan Kiembock, director of food services at Southampton Union Free School District. “But with Heather as our coordinator, we have been able to continue our farm-to-school goals on a smaller scale.”

With the latest award from the state, Meehan will continue to serve as farm-to-school coordinator for the three districts. Her goals are to continue local Harvest of the Month menu items, increase local produce and product purchases by the schools, and integrate agricultural education into the curriculum. The schools have also started serving a local fish taco with underutilized seafood sourced from Haskell’s Seafood in Quogue.

“I look forward to meeting all our farm-to-school goals this year, especially now that more students will be coming back to in-person schooling,” said Kiembock.

“Farm-to-school activities benefit our students, farmers and the entire community,” Meehan said. “The last year has highlighted disparities in food access within our community, and farm-to-school can improve equity while also benefiting local producers.” 

Photo courtesy of the Southampton Union Free School District