Posted Wednesday, June 12, 2019 7:56 am on TOMPKINS WEEKLY
Christa Nunez, Youth Farm ProjectThe Fresh Snack Program provides fresh, healthy fruit and vegetable snacks to elementary schools in the Ithaca City School District. We do this in order to establish healthy eating habits that may last a lifetime. Our goal is to make the preparation, sharing and eating of fresh fruits and vegetables part of the daily classroom routine so that the students can enjoy learning together in their classrooms in more deeply enriching and healthful ways.
Back in 2009, Amie Hamlin at The New York Coalition for Healthy School Food decided to pilot a private version of the very successful federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program. The reason we created a private version of a federal program is because federal funding is limited, and only the most economically disadvantaged schools in each state receive funding for the federal program. However, many schools have a high percentage of economically disadvantaged students that do not qualify for the Fresh Snack Program. Every student can benefit from the Fresh Snack Program, so even schools that do not have a high rate of economically disadvantaged students benefit from this type of program.
In 2016 the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program became a program of the Youth Farm Project and simplified its name to the Fresh Snack Program. Today 5 out of 8 elementary schools in the Ithaca City School District receive fresh snacks in every classroom 2-3 days per week.
We knew that to do this the right way, we had to get as serious about what the kids ate as we were about their reading skills. It’s important to consider the whole child, and food is a central part of this.
What kids put into their bodies is crucial to their growth as humans, and has long term impacts. Most children do not get enough fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet. The addition of healthy plant foods in the classroom and the absence of other less healthy foods provides children with an opportunity to eat fruits and vegetables that they might not otherwise eat.
What we found out is that, in the captive environment of a classroom, children will eat fruits and vegetables, even if they previously would not. The healthier options they were offered, fruits and vegetables became the accepted norm. Children were encouraged by their classmates and teachers, and classmates and teachers served as role models. Contrary to what some adults thought would happen - children in the program eat raw kale, bok choy, beets, turnips, and other vegetables – with no dressing. They loved it then, and they love it now, ten years later.
Our program shows that children will joyfully eat fruits and vegetables, and most importantly, we have learned that this has impacted their eating habits at home and that many students have internalized and can articulate the fact that eating fresh fruits and vegetables actually makes them feel better. We found this out when teachers reported that students coming back from weekends and vacations reported missing their fruits and vegetables, and just not feeling the same without them.
You can learn more about the Fresh Snack Program by visiting youthfarmproject.org.
Originally, students and teachers were served three different fresh fruits in the morning and three different vegetables in the afternoon. That was a huge effort, and in order to save time, we switched to two fruits and two vegetables per day for two to three days per week. Our program manager at the time, Vanessa Wood, suggested offering one fruit and one vegetable in the morning, and one fruit and one vegetable in the afternoon. This turned out to be a great idea and seemed to result in greater consumption. Whenever possible, the produce served was organic and/or came from local farms. Each day, teachers received what we call “Fresh Bites”, information about the fruits and vegetables served that day, including where they were grown and whether they are organic. At the end of each week, we survey teachers and cafeteria staff about the quality and quantity eaten enjoyed by the children of each fruit served. We use that data to hone and better tool the program to serve the tastes and overall health and enjoyment of the students.
We know that if children become comfortable in enjoying healthy foods, they will create avenues for themselves to continue to do so into adulthood. In developing their palates in delicious, naturally healthy and Earth-friendly ways, we create sustainable lifestyles that boost the quality of life for children for generations to come.
• Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables.
• Decrease the consumption of junk food.
• Increase knowledge of different fruits and vegetables as well as their physiological and environmental benefits.
• Increase understanding that fruits and vegetables make young bodies feel good - better than eating junk food snacks.
It is our hope that this program will help contribute to changes over time that will lead to lower rates of childhood obesity, behavioral problems, learning barriers, and long-term diet-related diseases.
The Fresh Snack Program is a program of the Youth Farm Project, a project of the Center For Transformative Action.
Original article: http://tompkinsweekly.com/stories/the-fresh-snack-program-celebrates-10-years,2678
May 14, 2019 by Mark H. Anbinder in 14850 Dining
Three local organizations that have provided farm-fresh food to the Ithaca area for years are having a joint anniversary party! The Piggery, the Full Plate Farm Collective, and the Youth Farm Project are teaming up Wednesday for an event that will feature live music, local food, and local beer.
The party is free and open to the public, at Stick & Stone Farm at 1605 Trumansburg Road, northwest of Ithaca, and it’s from 5-8pm on Wednesday, May 15th.
It’s the 15th anniversary celebration for the Full Plate Farm Collective, a multi-farm organic CSA, or farm share, service that includes fresh produce from Remembrance Farm, Stick & Stone Farm, Three Swallows Farm, and a small network of other growers totaling over 50 acres of organic vegetables and serving hundreds of local households. While lots of farms offer their own CSA, or “community supported agriculture,” shares, the collective lets supporters enjoy a wider variety of produce than each of the farms could otherwise individually offer.
The Piggery is celebrating its tenth anniversary as a farm offering pasture-raised heritage hogs and a local butcher and charcuterie outlet that began as a booth at the Ithaca Farmers Market. They opened a retail outlet across Route 13 from Steamboat Landing, and operated a cafe and deli-style restaurant before deciding to focus on the butcher shop, which also offers countless other locally produced food items.
The Youth Farm Project has been bringing youth together from diverse social and economic backgrounds for ten years, exposing kids to all aspects of farm work and exploring the discrepancies of the existing food system. Youth participants are involved from planting seeds to selling produce and managing the group’s mobile market.
Wednesday’s gathering will feature beer from Salt Point Brewing in Lansing, farm tours, old timey music, and menu items from the former Piggery restaurant operation.
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New partnerships bring more local ingredients and educational opportunities as the Fresh Snack Program expands to a fourth ICSD school.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org / 607-592-2902
ITHACA, NY [SEPTEMBER 14, 2016]—The Fresh Snack Program, now a farm-to-school program of The Youth Farm Project, announced that the 305 students in Caroline Elementary began receiving fresh classroom snacks this Wednesday, becoming the fourth school to benefit from the program in Ithaca City School District (ICSD). Yellow watermelon from Stick and Stone Farm in Trumansburg, NY and tomatoes from the Youth Farm Project in Danby, NY will be the first featured snack items paired this school year.
FSP replaces less nutritious snacks that parents or teachers otherwise pay for, increases access to fresh plant-based foods, familiarizes students with healthier food choices, and connects youth with their local food system.
“We are thrilled to be partnering with The Fresh Snack Program and ICSD Nutrition Services to bring healthy snacks—some locally grown by children in the Ithaca community—to our students,” says Mary Grover, Caroline Elementary school’s principal. “The Fresh Snack Program combined with Cool School Food lunch entrées, Caroline’s vegetable garden and our Farm to Table Event are increasing awareness of and options for healthier food at our school. I look forward to building upon this partnership to do even more for our community.”
Fresh classroom snacks in Ithaca launched at Beverly J. Martin (BJM) Elementary School in 2008 through a collaboration between the Coalition for Healthy School Food and GreenStar Community Projects. The Fresh Snack Program (FSP) continues to provide all BJM students with a half-cup serving of nutritious fruit and vegetable snacks each school day.
The Fresh Snack Program expanded to Enfield Elementary in the fall of 2014, and to Belle Sherman Elementary the fall of 2015. With the addition of Caroline, FSP will now serve 1,230 Pre-K through 5th grade students in the four ICSD elementary schools with highest indicator rates for family poverty—approximately 75% of students in BJM and Enfield, and 40% in Belle Sherman and Caroline, receive free or reduced lunch. An additional snack bowl is also prepared each school day for the students in Southside Community Center’s afterschool program, thanks to support from the Rotary Foundation.
A new partnership with local food business Crooked Carrot will allow the Fresh Snack Program to serve more local, organic fruits and vegetables than ever before. Crooked Carrot is a local foods processing kitchen located in Danby, NY, purchasing 100% of its fresh ingredients from over 20 local farms. The business makes natural ferments such as pickles and kimchi, applesauce, and fresh-cut salad mixes for distribution in natural food stores and restaurants across NY state—processing over 30,000 lbs. of local produce in 2015. Starting this school year, Crooked Carrot is ordering ingredients, processing them into finger food, and delivering them in bulk to the ICSD central kitchen, located at Boynton Middle School, for distribution to the four Fresh Snack Program elementary schools.
“The long-term vision of Crooked Carrot is to be a problem-solver in developing our local food system, whether it's sourcing, processing, marketing, or providing licensed kitchen space to new food businesses,” explains founder and owner Silas Conroy. “For the first five years of our business, we've focused primarily on expanding the market for local farmers' produce by creating product lines sourced exclusively from those local farms—especially working with farms' excesses and crops that are high-value but not aesthetically perfect. With this new partnership with the Fresh Snack Program, we're very excited to be able to use our competencies in local sourcing and processing to work on very different kinds of problems in the food system, such as access to healthy food and child nutrition.”
For the past two school years, ICSD Child Nutrition Program staff have prepared snacks in the central kitchen before distributing them to schools on the meal delivery route. Partnering with the Child Nutrition Program has allowed for less expensive overhead costs and easier expansion to schools beyond BJM Elementary. “It’s about working together to educate the students about healthy foods,” said Denise Agati, School Food Director for the district.
Crooked Carrot will make Fresh Snack service even more efficient by streamlining the ordering and preparation of ingredients with their existing kitchen operations. Their in-depth experience purchasing from local farmers while balancing ingredient and labor costs will allow for the freshest, highest quality produce to be served in classroom snacks.
Cafeteria managers in each school receive prepared snacks in bulk and portion them into bowls for each classroom, and teachers send student representatives to pick up snack bowls from the cafeteria. In the intimate classroom environment, teachers can encourage new food choices in ways that best fit their classroom cultures.
“Two of my students consistently refused healthy snack at the beginning of the last school year,” says Julie Bakos, a second grade teacher at Enfield Elementary School. “They wouldn't take a ‘no thank you bite’ just to try the food. After a few months, they began to risk the ‘no thank you bite’. This evolved into them always trying the food and learning they enjoyed most of the food they tried. They would comment that the food tasted different when they ate it at home. I'm speculating they eat canned veggies and fruit at home, while learning they prefer fresh fruit and veggies. These two students now say they love carrots and salad!”
Julie’s second grade class was also one of ten ICSD elementary classrooms to visit the Youth Farm last spring for a farm field trip. Students planted seeds, explored the compost, and met the chickens before harvesting ingredients for a fresh snack they prepared and ate on site.
In June, The Youth Farm Project became home to the Fresh Snack Program as part of its merger with Wood's Earth, another local nonprofit. Among other benefits, this merger has allowed the Fresh Snack Program to tie together elementary education with teen-focused food and farming programs. As the school year begins, Lehman Alternative Community School (LACS) students will be involved in three off-campus projects that feed into the Fresh Snack Program. “These projects are a perfect example of how education can offer our young people avenues for learning that empower them to make positive changes in their world,” says Dan Flerlage, teacher at LACS and co-founder of The Youth Farm Project.
On Thursday mornings, one group will help harvest vegetables at the Youth Farm and make them “kitchen ready.” Another will work with the professionals at Crooked Carrot, learning how to transform these vegetables into healthy snacks for elementary school youth.
A third group will work with FSP staff later in the semester to both create and teach curriculum to elementary age students, building upon the importance of these healthy school snacks. Antonia Demas, creator of Food is Elementary, introduced her whole food nutrition curriculum in Enfield Elementary classrooms in the spring, and will work with the LACS students spread her lessons to more Fresh Snack schools. Demas has taught her curriculum and measured the results in schools across the country, and student feedback indicates a significant increase in preference for fruits and vegetables.
The Fresh Snack Program depends on generous funding from The Park Foundation of Tompkins County, United Way of Tompkins County, Share Our Strength, The Community Foundation of Tompkins County, Tompkins Charitable Gift Fund; funding from community business sponsors B&W Supply, Emmy’s Organics, CSP Management, and Kevin Brew Sales; and support from individuals and school PTAs. School parents have the option to contribute funds to the program on a sliding scale.
For more information on The Fresh Snack Program and other programs at The Youth Farm Project, visit our website at www.youthfarmproject.org or contact Audrey Baker at email@example.com / 607-592-2902.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Youth Farm Project and Wood’s Earth announce merger that will integrate programs engaging youth in the local food system.
Contact: Rafael Aponte, Director, firstname.lastname@example.org
ITHACA, NY July, 2016—The Youth Farm Project and Wood’s Earth announce a merger of their organizations. The two organizations began in early 2016 to transition toward becoming one organization under the name Youth Farm Project as a project of the Center For Transformative Action.
“This merger offers unique potential,” said Dan Flerlage, co-founder of the Youth Farm Project and teacher at Lehman Alternative Community School. “It brings together complementary programs that both work to connect our local youth more directly to their food, while involving them as agents of change in creating a more just food system within our community.”
Wood’s Earth co-founder Audrey Baker, who proposed the merger, added, “The merger will also lead to more efficient use of community resources, while creating exciting new possibilities for food systems curriculum development tied to bringing fresh, local food to school meals and snacks.”
As part of this growth, the Youth Farm Project is also announcing the hire of a director, Rafael Aponte. Rafael has been working with the Youth Farm Project as an educator and as an organizational mentor over the last three years. He brings in-depth experience and expertise in community organizing, farming and social justice education. He owns and operates his own farm, Rocky Acres Community Farm and co-founded the Harvest Box Program.
The Youth Farm Project (YFP) occupies a 10-acre farm just outside of Ithaca, leased from the Ithaca Waldorf School. The Youth Farm Project runs a 7 week Summer Program where 25 young people are employed and involved in all aspects of farming; from seeding, to cultivation, to harvest, and to market. The Summer Program curriculum includes community stewardship, the relationship of the food system to power and privilege, self-advocacy and communication, public speaking, anti-racism training, team building, nutrition, culinary skills, and more.
YFP grows over 10,000 pounds of produce each season, which is distributed in Ithaca City Schools, the Fresh Snack Program, Farmer’s Markets that we attend with our Mobile Market, and through our accessible farm share, the Harvest Box Program. YFP is dedicated to healing our food system through an anti-racism organizing lens by bringing together youth from diverse backgrounds to explore issues of environmental and social justice within the food system. YFP also offers farm-based learning opportunities and programming for class field trips, after-school programs, enrichment programs, and youth and community groups.
Wood’s Earth has grown up to two acres of vegetables on their farm site in the Town of Ithaca. Wood’s Earth programs have focused on supplying fresh, local produce as a significant portion of school food ingredients, while providing youth with educational opportunities to connect with the foods they eat in school on the farm, in the classroom, and in the school kitchen . The organization partners with the Ithaca City School District’s Child Nutrition Program to supply and process fresh produce for the ICSD school lunches. Since 2014, Wood’s Earth has managed the Fresh Snack Program, which serves fresh fruit and vegetable based snacks to over 900 students in the highest-need ICSD elementary schools. The Fresh Snack Program is also merging under the Youth Farm Project.
Combined programming resulting from the merger will lead to new opportunities for our local teens to connect more directly with elementary aged youth, by both growing fresh whole foods for school lunches and the Fresh Snack Program, and by working in the ICSD central kitchen, preparing snacks and meals for younger members of our community. Farm-based education and school food production are now centralized at the Youth Farm, with consolidated equipment and resources. The combined offices are in the Just Be Cause Not-For-Profit Development Center.
The staff of the organizations also are uniting, ensuring full leverage of their established partnerships and sharing their expertise in curriculum development, youth and community organizing, food production, networking and fundraising. A new youth and community advisory group will be formed to inform and guide the Youth Farm Project in its education and community endeavors to ensure the organization is based in service to the community.
The decision to merge came after eight months of discussions, and the two organizations became one project of the Center for Transformative Action in June of 2016. They are forginga merger that most effectively integrates the strengths of both organizations while creating unique opportunities for unity within the community.
Wood’s Earth was a project of the Center for Transformative Action, and Youth Farm Project was formerly a project of Social Ventures, Inc.
Woods Earth and the Youth Farm Project, Inc. have received funding locally through the Park Foundation and the Community Foundation, both of whom are supportive of the merger.
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