August Spotlight: Farm to School Team Travels to Shelburne, Vermont

The 2017-2018 Northeast Farm to School Institute kicked off with a retreat at the beautiful Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont during the last week of June. The institute is a unique year-long professional learning opportunity for twelve school teams from New England and New York. Two of our staff at the Food & Health Network, Erin Summerlee, Director and Christian Dirado-Owens, Program Coordinator had the opportunity to attend the retreat as part of a Johnson City School District Team. They were joined by their fellow team members Adam Frys and Jane Halladay from Johnson City School District, Bryan McCoy of Broome Tioga BOCES Food Service, and Kelly White from Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County.

Can you give a brief overview of your experience?DSC_0065

Christian: Shelburne Farms is a very beautiful place, it provided us with a space for our team to come together and also gave us many resources and questions to bring back to our farm to school work. It took us away from our daily work responsibilities and gave us a place where we could be free to focus on exactly what we wanted to achieve. Overall, it was really helpful for us to connect and talk with each other about farm to school and made us feel comfortable moving forward with programming and asking team members to work toward a vision. It was a really good communication builder for the team, and left us with a sense that there are a lot of things happening in other places that gave us an optimism of what’s possible.

Erin: It was really a space away from our work responsibilities to come together as a team, not just those of us who always work together on the school foodservice and nutrition education side of things but different key people within the schools. It was a mix of group time where we could dig into developing our own action plan for the following school year and then learning opportunities and workshops where we  could hear from farm to school programs across the northeast and the country. We also had time to plenty of free to time to meet new people and informally learn from the different school teams. In the end we came up with an action plan and a vision statement for the Johnson City Farm to School Program and are excited to put it into motion throughout the year. Continue reading

July Member Spotlight: Broome-Tioga BOCES Food Service

bt boces logo

Tom Lewis, FaHN VISTA, recently visited the Broome-Tioga BOCES Food Service office in Endicott, NY to speak with Ray Denniston, Special Projects Coordinator, and Julie Raway, MPH, RDN, CDN, SNS, and the Rock on Café Registered Dietitian, to learn more about their organization and the many exciting projects they are currently working on.

Broome-Tioga BOCES Food Service’s mission is “to enrich the educational process by providing a quality child nutrition program” and their vision is “to be nationally recognized as a premier child nutrition program.” Their role as the food service provider for Broome and Tioga County began when the public schools were all individually managed by their own separate directors. BOCES’ role expanded when instead of hiring a new director after another one left, they instead merged with BOCES so they could have shared services. Currently all 15 school districts in Broome and Tioga County are part of the BT-BOCES management program. According to their website their services to districts include: menu planning, purchasing, staff supervision, budgeting, and much more. A unique feature of their setup is that they manage the school district’s programs as far as procurement and training, but the programs themselves are still individually owned by each school district.

What is each of your positions in BT-BOCES and what are some of the programs you both work on?

Julie: I’m a registered dietitian and work with the school nutrition programs in all the districts. I lead the menu development team,  which is comprised of food service directors and managers. I also lead a recipe development team that works on recipes for new menu items. In addition to the menu, there are many other aspects of my job. Some include presentations and workshops with students, media organization including  having our menus read on the TV and the radio, community events and health promotions, and working with our many partners. Essentially, half of my job is food service and the other half is community. The food service piece is working on menus, recipes, and nutrient analysis. The other part is working with community partners to bring the wellness component into our programs and connecting food service, health, community, and hunger. Basically, bringing them all together.

Ray: I do a lot with the purchasing, bidding, specifications, and working directly with Julie. I look at price and Julie looks at nutrition and then if it’s a go, Julie takes it for taste testing, to look at acceptability. On the other side of that, I also work with the community as well. I work with the Broome County Child Hunger Coalition, the Broome County Health Department, Farm to Institution New York State (FINYS), Albany Farm to School, staff training, and anything we can do to emphasize and promote the program and its importance. Mark Bordeau who is the Senior Food Service Director (Mark was recently named Food Service Director of the year by the School Nutrition Association. You can read more about him here.), really oversees the whole program and brings in a lot of our philosophies. The staff created the mission statement. We worked with them in groups until they came up with their scope of where they wanted to take the program. Continue reading

May Member Spotlight: CCE Tioga

Tom Lewis, FaHN VISTA sat down with Margaret Ball, Agriculture Development Specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tioga County (CCE Tioga) to learn more about her work and the different projects that CCE Tioga is currently involved with.

Cornell Cooperative Extension associations operate throughout New York and have a presence in every county in the state. According to their website the mission of the extension system is to, “put knowledge to work in the pursuit of economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being.” CCE Tioga runs a variety of different programs that cover diverse subject areas such as agriculture, 4H youth development, gardening, nutrition, and family development. Each of those areas has many different functions, roles, and projects associated with them. The majority of my conversation with Margaret focused on their agriculture programing and CCE Tioga’s role in the local food system.

The role of agriculture in Tioga County:

According to Todd Schmit, Associate Professor of Applied Economics and Management at Cornell University, agricultural industry in Tioga County (including production, support services and manufacturing) has a total direct output of $261 million, employs more than 860 people and contributes $79 million (6.24%) to the Tioga County GDP. Margaret stated that, “Tioga county has quite a diversity of types of farms and different products. Almost anything you can think of there are at least a few places in Tioga County that produce it, and quite a range of sizes of farms. There’s a multigenerational farming community and also a lot of folks getting into farming, trying to start up new operations. There are also folks who have lived elsewhere and have moved here trying to set up a nice rural lifestyle.”

Last summer, CCE Tioga hosted four Cornell undergraduates who carried out an interdisciplinary research project called Our Farms, Our Stories. With support from CCE Tioga staff and Cornell advisors, the students documented stories, contributions, and needs of farmers in Tioga County. They interviewed farmers and community leaders, participated in local cultural events, and quantified agriculture’s contribution to the Tioga County economy. Our Farms, Our Stories results are available on the CCE Tioga website, including a 20-minute video, reader-friendly profiles of 14 Tioga County farms, and a comprehensive written report. Continue reading

National Garden Month Feature: Ithaca Children’s Garden

Written by Cristina Quinn:

The Ithaca Children’s Garden has focused on positive youth development since 1998. As opposed to allotment-style gardens, ICG serves as an educational space and uses hands-on, garden-based learning to empower children and teens. Their mission is to “inspire the next generation of environmental stewards.” Despite the name, the Ithaca Children’s Garden serves people of all ages. While much of their programming focuses on children, everyone is welcome to explore the garden year-round. In just one year, they received over 69,000 visitors ranging from infants to senior citizens. Continue reading

April Member Spotlight: Chenango United Way

Written by Elizabeth Monaco, Executive Director of Chenango United Way:

In the summers of 2015 and 2016, the Greater Chenango Cares IRT project partnered with military service members to provide no-cost medical, dental, vision and veterinary care for the greater Chenango County region (and Cortland County region in 2016). In both years, survey data was collected from patients to determine the types of health needs facing our community and the barriers to addressing these issues.

The IRT events and the results of this survey data left our community with many unanswered questions regarding the need for future/on-going services for the un-insured and under-insured families of Chenango County and its surrounding communities. Most notably, the IRT dental clinics were full every day and perspective patients had to be turned away because there were simply not enough providers to see all of the patients in need. 4,969 dental procedures were performed at the 2015 Chenango IRT and 2,350 procedures at the 2016 Chenango IRT. More than 55% of IRT attendees surveyed stated that they did not see a dentist regularly and cited lack of dental insurance and cost as their primary barriers. Continue reading

March Member Spotlight: Cooperstown Farmers’ Market

Our March Member Spotlight is the Cooperstown Farmers’ Market located in Cooperstown, NY. The Market is a program of Otsego 2000, a non-profit, “founded in 1981 to protect the environmental, agricultural, scenic, cultural and historic resources of the Otsego Lake region and northern Otsego County”. Tom Lewis, FaHN VISTA, spoke with Shannon Kirch, Agricultural Programs Manager at Otsego 2000 and also the Market Manager, to learn more about the farmers’ market.

History of the market:

Shannon joined the staff of Otsego 2000 late last year but the history of the farmers’ market dates back to 1991 when they decided to open the first indoor market in Otsego County. The market’s philosophy is to, “encourage agricultural private enterprise that exists in a mutually beneficial relationship with downtown merchants.” Shannon stated that, “the market was started as a community building event and to bring people back to Main Street, but also to provide an outlet for the smaller farms and businesses in the area”. She said that, “the market has steadily grown and we are now up to a roster of 50 vendors every year, and we fit as many of them in as we can every week”.

What’s available at the market:

The market is open on Saturdays, January through April from 10am – 2pm, May through August from 8am – 2pm, and September through December from 9am – 2pm. They also have a Tuesday Market that runs in July and August from 12pm – 5pm. In order to get a spot at the market all vendors need to be located within 50 miles. Shannon mentioned how the market “tries to stay focused on agricultural products, agriculture vendors get priority, so it’s a lot of produce and a lot of local meat. Beyond the farmers, there’s a lot of food processor vendors that bring in baked goods, jellies, jams, salsas, and canned goods. In addition to those, in any other room we have available we get a lot of crafters and specialty artisans that do everything from hand knit scarfs, to puppets, and handbags.”

A few of the vendors at the market also offer CSA’s for consumers to purchase and pick up weekly. Shannon said that, “we try to cross promote their CSA’s and our Tuesday market initially started as a CSA pickup, so the vendors offering CSA’s didn’t have to bring their CSA boxes on top of all their other stuff for the Saturday market”. From there the Tuesday market evolved into a smaller version of their Saturday market. Continue reading

FaHN Helps to Host MLK Day Poverty Simulation

The Food and Health Network of South Central NY collaborated with the Rural Health Service Corps and Food Bank of the Southern Tier Speakers Bureau to coordinate a successful poverty simulation with a combined theme of food and racial justice. The simulation was held for students from Binghamton University’s Hinman College in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

Close to 100 total participants came out to take part in the event, which aimed to simulate the lived experiences of low-income and food-insecure families. The simulation also sought to highlight some of the structural obstacles to socioeconomic mobility, personal health, happiness, and employment.

Reflecting on our experience, one of the things we felt most passionate about was grounding the poverty simulation to the realities of millions of people who struggle with poverty and food insecurity every day. By disassociating the simulation experience to reality, a poverty simulation can quickly lose focus and articulate itself more like a role-playing game than as an educational simulation. Designing the poverty simulation so that it is not only an enjoyable experience but also a solemnly insightful window into the realities of struggling families was thus both a challenge and something that FaHN felt strongly about ensuring throughout the event. Continue reading