By Hannah Rion, Farm to School Coordinator

As the school year draws to a close, the Farm to School team brims with anticipation for what lies ahead! Summer becomes our planning season, where preparations for the upcoming school year take center stage. We engage in frequent communications with the producers we collaborate with, conduct check-ins with our school garden grantees, and convene planning meetings with our core partners. Much of our essential work unfolds behind the scenes during these warm months.

As Farm to School Coordinator, I engage in ongoing dialogues with our farms and producers regarding the products schools plan to procure for the fall and the remainder of the school year. These discussions delve into delivery logistics and considerations about whether the growing season might impact the yield of any crops slated for the menu. Meanwhile, many of our South Central NY School Garden grantees involve their students in tending to their school gardens through summer programming, garden club meetings, or volunteer hours.

The Farm to School Program is deeply rooted in the Rural Health Network’s commitment to advancing the health and well-being of rural communities. Looking forward, we are committed to addressing challenges within the Farm to School landscape. We are actively exploring solutions for regional distribution and enhancing schools’ access to minimally processed and value-added local products. Building connections with hyper-local farms and finding a balance between schools’ needs and farmers’ requirements are also key priorities. Additionally, we are seeking out further training opportunities for school nutrition staff. Lastly, we aim to sustain our partnerships with local organizations and school districts to expand the school garden network and cultivate a collaborative learning community.

The upcoming school year marks a significant milestone as FaHN celebrates the 10th anniversary of its Farm to School Program! Reflecting on the program’s remarkable growth over the past decade, we extend gratitude to all our supporters who have cheered us on throughout this journey. Through the generous contributions of past and present funders, our program continues to ensure students’ access to nutritious, locally-produced food. Without this vital funding, our program would not be able to operate at its current scale or scope.