By Brooke Traver, Public Health AmeriCorps Member

In the ‘23-’24 school year, we have facilitated 26 taste tests and have celebrated 38 NY Thursday meals with students. Farm to School taste tests and NY Thursdays play an essential role in promoting healthy eating habits, supporting local agriculture, and fostering community connections. By offering students the chance to taste fresh, locally sourced foods, these initiatives introduce them to healthier dietary choices, encouraging lifelong healthy eating habits. Additionally, these programs provide crucial support to local farmers and producers, strengthening local economies and sustaining small-scale agriculture.

This year we designed a Producer/Local Food Vendor Survey. Our goal was to better understand if producers and food vendors participating in the Farm to School program are able to establish economic viability through the program. After analyzing the data, all participants shared that they have found economic viability through selling their products to area school districts. A NYS beef producer said, “As we designed our mission to serve the k-12 market, we have enjoyed growing with that sector and our economic gains have been because of these buyers.” By sourcing food locally, we reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation and promote sustainable farming practices.

These initiatives also offer educational opportunities, teaching students about the origins of their food and fostering an appreciation for the food system. The Farm to School Program brings together schools, farmers, families, and community members, strengthening community ties and collaboration. By contributing to a more stable food supply chain and supporting local food production, these programs play a key role in long-term food security. The Farm to School team implemented a stakeholder survey that was sent out to teachers and administrative staff in all of the schools that the Farm to School team visited. The survey was developed to establish awareness and receive feedback on their knowledge of the program. Stakeholder feedback is important to us as it helps us grow. A stakeholder from Chenango Forks Elementary School said, “I think NY Thursdays are wonderful! I will begin to discuss this with my students moving forward.” Overall, Farm to School taste tests and NY Thursdays benefit students, farmers, and communities, promoting a healthier, more sustainable, and connected society.