Farm to Table for Schools

Arabella Stickels reported yesterday at the Poughkeepsie (New York) Journal Online that, “Farm to table has become a catchphrase for privileged foodies. When it comes to schools, though, farm to table is more democratic and gives every kid access to healthy, local food — as well as a hands-on education.

“According to a recent report by the USDA, farm-to-school programs have grown rapidly in the past few years, now involving more than 23 million schoolchildren. This is vital considering childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than doubled in the past 30 years — a devastating statistic.

“In Beacon — with approximately 50 percent of school-children on free or reduce-price lunches — the farm-to-school program is about to embark upon its fourth year. The program is seeing a tremendous response from the schoolchildren, thanks in part to the passion and dedication of the all-women farmer team at Common Ground Farm, a non-profit farm project in Wappingers Falls.”

The article noted that, “Sember Weinman, Common Ground Farm’s education director said, ‘At the core of the program is the emphasis on hands-on experiential activities.’ She said that as well as eating Common Ground Farm salads and vegetables in the school cafeteria, the children cook seasonal dishes through their Chef in the Classroom program and go on field trips to Common Ground Farm, where they see the farmers in action and harvest and cook the food they pick. Each elementary school also has its own school garden managed by Hudson Valley Seed.”

Yesterday’s article added that, “This is just the beginning of Common Ground Farm’s plans for a farm-to-institution program. Ben Giardullo, president of the Board of Directors at Common Ground Farm, said the non-profit organization is uniquely positioned to grow its capacity with approximately 100 acres of available land at Stony Kill, where it already leases 9 acres. As well as expanding within Beacon School District, he hopes that — with the right funding — in the next three to five years the program will begin distribution to schools in Newburgh and Poughkeepsie, and potentially other institutions, such as local colleges, hospitals and prisons.”

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