In January we announced that FaHN would be expanding our farm to school efforts into Chenango, Delaware, and Otsego Counties. Sidney Central School District was awarded a round three New York State Farm to School grant, and we’ll be working with Sidney CSD and Delaware-Chenango-Madison-Otsego BOCES to expand their successful programming and connect farmers and fresh local produce to Afton, Bainbridge, Walton, Downsville, Unatego, Unadilla Valley, Sherburne-Earlville, Greene, and Oneonta City school districts. FaHN will assist with building the regional farm to school supply chain, conducting farmer outreach, coordinating local procurement efforts, and collaborating on farm to school programs and processes.

Tom Lewis, FaHN VISTA, recently spoke with Kim Corcoran, DCMO BOCES Food Service Director who has been with BOCES for 28 years and is currently working on farm to school initiatives, and Christian DiRado-Owens, FaHN Program Coordinator who will be assisting Sidney and BOCES to discuss our new partnership and supporting farm to school in the region.

Why do you believe is it important for children in schools to have access to healthy meal options?

Kim: Children need to be exposed to and fed fresh, healthy food options for lifelong good health and weight management. They need to have access to fresh local food at all ages.

Christian: Food is a proxy for health outcomes and a means through which children can take control of their well-being, their awareness, their education, their social and environmental connections, and their engagement in the world. Since children K-12 spend 12 or more of their formative years eating lunch five days per week in a school cafeteria, why wouldn’t we do everything we can to make sure they have fresh, local, healthy food options available to them?

Why do you think farm to school is beneficial for the area?

Kim: Farm to school is important at many levels; first the benefit to students eating fresh great tasting fruits and vegetables and gaining a lifelong love for good produce is a start to healthy eating, secondly the local farmers profit economically from the purchases not only for the school meal program but from families that purchase the fruits and vegetables after being exposed to them and tasting them at school. Many more students are getting the message from many different ways. The desire to eat better is more popular and the farm to school efforts are attracting those students and we are feeding a wider range of students daily with the addition of the fresh local fruits and vegetables.

Christian: Farm to school is a win-win for everyone involved. It supports local farm livelihoods with steady markets and formidable income opportunities, strengthens the viability of a sustainable regional food system, connects people to one another through food and farming, and provides fresh, local, healthy meals to students so that they can thrive and learn more about career opportunities in food systems and agriculture.

On the partnership between DCMO BOCES and the Rural Health Network:

Kim: The Rural Health Network is known for its dedication to promoting and supporting farms and local programs. The staff at RHN are not only talented and have expertise in farm to school efforts but they are eager to help my schools reach a higher standard using local fruits and vegetables.

Christian: We at the Food and Health Network are really excited to partner with DCMO BOCES and all of the trailblazing pilot school districts to make farm to school a reality in the region!