(New York, NY) – Every day school cafeterias in New York State serve nearly 2 million lunches and breakfasts. Unfortunately, besides the carton of milk not much of the food served in the cafeterias comes from local farms. That is changing as evidenced by today’s announcement of the NYC school system’s intention to buy more New York State apples and the many school districts that are featuring New York farm products on the menu this week to celebrate NY Harvest for NY Kids Week.
When Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) became Chair of the Assembly Task Force on Food, Farm and Nutrition Policy he decided he would like to bring farmers and children together to create future consumers and is pleased that the law he sponsored to create a farm-to-school program is helping increase local farmers’ share of the school foodservice market. The NYC apple purchase is exactly the type of benefit Ortiz envisioned when he developed his legislation.
“I am pleased that the NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets has been developing a great program and expanding the efforts we began several years ago with New York Harvest for New York Kids Week. As a New York City legislator I want our friends in agriculture to know that we support them and want to be good customers, and that includes our schools. In return we get fresh, quality, good tasting food that has not had to travel for days and thousands of miles to get here. This program also complements my newest law creating a Childhood Obesity Prevention Program. Kids need to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and less fast food. What better place to learn about these foods than in school?”
New York State school meal programs serve meals with an annual value over $500 million. This is a huge potential market for New York farm products. Over 600 schools districts that were recently surveyed by the NYS School Foodservice Association’s NY FARMS! Task Force reported using hundreds of thousands of cases of apples, cider, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes and shredded cabbage, all goods that are commonly grown and produced in New York.
According to Ortiz, “I developed this bill to get the Department of Agriculture and Markets and the Education Department to help local schools and farmers find each other. Increasing school purchases of New York produced food would help improve the bottom line of New York farmers at a time when the loss of farmers and farmland continues to accelerate because of low profits in agriculture.”
Ortiz added, “The timing for this program is right. More and more consumers, chefs and food writers are extolling the virtues of local farm products for quality, safety and nutrition. Buying local foods maintains farms and open space, which helps protect our natural resources, for example the New York City watershed. New York State government and local school districts should make every possible effort to maximize the use of government funding for school meals to purchase nutritious, locally produced foods to benefit the health of students, our local economies and environment and provide new opportunities for Upstate and Downstate, city and rural residents to support each other.”