Called “New York Thursdays,” the program will impact approximately 10,000 students across five school districts in the Southern Tier, providing locally sourced food on the second Thursday of each month with the long-term goal of improving the quality and freshness of every school meal. Funded by a state grant from NYS Ag & Markets, the program is an outgrowth of the farm-to-school initiative launched through BOCES highly successful “Rock on Café,” which is now in its tenth year.
On September 21, more than 400 students took part in the first NY Thursday Harvest celebration at Tioga Central School. The focal point of the event was the Tiger Farms garden, from which students dug the potatoes that would be served for lunch. There were also nine stations around the school garden where students could learn about different aspects of local agriculture, including pollinators, honey and maple, apple growing, calf and lamb raising, and the types of food animals eat. Tioga Superintendent Scott Taylor labeled the experience “an agricultural classroom.”
Additionally, Cornell Cooperative Extension provided hands on activities and nutrition education, and students were even able to relax with the garden yoga. When students finished visiting the stations they were invited to stop by the kid’s farmers market to pick up fresh produce to take home.
The menu for the day featured spiedies grilled by Sam Lupo and his daughter, corn on the cob from Our Green Acres farm, apples from Lone Maple Farm, and those fresh potatoes harvested from Tiger Farm.
"They (students) are pretty excited that they're growing something and learning that their potatoes don't just come from Price Choppers or McDonald's,” Taylor said.
In addition to Tioga, the school districts participating in NY Thursdays include Chenango Valley, Johnson City, Vestal and Whitney Point.
“Today, we celebrate having an entire lunch menu of New York-grown products served once a month to students in five districts in the southern tier,” said BOCES Senior Food Service Director Mark Bordeau. “Tomorrow, we go back to work to find ways to expand New York Thursdays to all 15 districts in Broome Tioga BOCES then to all of upstate New York.”