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Nonprofit Aims to Change NY School Lunch Menus with Farmers' Help

A Hudson Valley nonprofit partners with local farms to provide fresh, locally produced milk to schools in the Taconic Hills Central School District, but its ultimate goal is to produce more farmers as well. Credit: Matthew Green/freeimages.com
A Hudson Valley nonprofit partners with local farms to provide fresh, locally produced milk to schools in the Taconic Hills Central School District, but its ultimate goal is to produce more farmers as well. Credit: Matthew Green/freeimages.com
September 15, 2015

COPAKE, N.Y. - The founders of the New York nonprofit FarmOn! Foundation, say they're on a mission to bring fresh food from New York's farms to school lunch tables.

Their "Milk Money Local Milk Initiative" provides what the group says is higher-quality milk from local farms to eight school districts in the Hudson Valley Region, with another 30 schools in the pipeline in New York State.

Founder and executive director Tessa Edick says she was inspired by high school students, who were concerned about high-fructose corn syrup in their schools' milk, to provide healthier food for students and a viable livelihood for farmers.

"We went to school districts and, with Hudson Valley Fresh, offered to bring fresh, local milk to the lunchroom," says Edick. "That we would subsidize the cost of this privately from the foundation, in order to see if we could get kids eating better, feeling better and engaged in local agriculture."

Edick, who serves on the state's Council on Food Policy, says the foundation wants to expand the program to inner-city schools, such as those in New York City, where there is less access to fresh food directly from farms.

Edick says getting locally produced milk and healthier foods into schools is just the beginning. She says FarmOn! Foundation also aims to provide an educational and entrepreneurial pathway for kids who are interested in careers in agriculture.

"Part of the FarmOn! Foundation mission: bring awareness to where your food comes from, connect the urban and rural marketplaces, and create youth careers in agriculture to fill the succession gap," Edick says. "That's our overriding mission."

The FarmOn! Foundation just graduated the first class from its own agricultural academy, with the goal of getting a new generation interested in farming together with SUNY and Cornell University.

Nia Hamm, Public News Service - NY