St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES receives funding for Farm-to-School program

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Jul. 5—CANTON — The St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Service's Farm-to-School program received a financial boost from the state.

The program was awarded $99,099 to develop a web-based ordering platform and communications process, and to conduct research to determine the best products for production within school districts in the region.

It was among 16 programs awarded more than $1.48 million in funding throughout the state.

"We're excited about it. We're excited that it's going to continue. We are really fortunate to get this round," said Arlis "Artie" M. Frego, director of food service management for the St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES.

He said this is the third round of funding they received for the local program.

"It's a partnership we have with Cornell (Cooperative Extension of St. Lawrence County). We use the money to find out what we want to process for the school. We might buy apples, we might buy carrots, we might buy cabbage or tomatoes and we bring it over to the Harvest Kitchen at Cornell and we process it into something that's usable for the school districts. Then we ship it out to the school districts on Monday mornings," Mr. Frego said.

BOCES contracts Big Spoon Kitchen, Potsdam, which works with local farmers to provide the items.

"Big Spoon takes care of all of that and we try to spread the wealth around to as many (schools) as we can. They work with all the local farmers to get the product, and we make sure they plan on what we need so we have the product," he said.

The program is a boost for participating school districts.

"Schools don't have much for labor anymore, so for us to be able to do something that's ready to use is really beneficial to the school district," Mr. Frego said.

The Farm-to-School program promotes the purchase and use of New York-grown food in meals served in cafeterias of K-12 schools. Awarded programs serve students in kindergarten through grade 12 and operate in both school districts and through nonprofit partner organizations. Funding provided through the Farm-to-School program helps schools connect with local farmers, increase the use of locally grown food on school menus and improve student health, while providing increased economic benefits to New York's farmers.

The New York State Farm-to-School Competitive Grants Program launched in 2015 to increase the purchase of local food by school districts and individual schools. The Farm-to-School Competitive Grants Program has grown from $325,000 in 2015 to $1.5 million in fiscal year 2022. A total of 57 school districts or nonprofit organizations working with schools and farms have received more than $6.3 million since 2015 to support farm-to-school efforts across New York.