Farm to School collaboration to bring fresh produce to students in four school districts
Syracuse City Schools and three suburban school districts have teamed up to buy fruits and vegetables from local farmers. Thee Farm to School collaboration that aims to offer healthy options to students, while also benefitting producers.
Each month, schools will highlight one produce item harvested locally and serve it on the lunch line. Director of food and nutrition services at Syracuse Rachel Murphy says this month, it’s Concord grapes.
“They are beautiful, they look different, they taste different and I know that in the urban district, here in Syracuse, and the suburban districts, the children have not necessarily seen those ever before, which is alarming because we have got an amazing harvest of grapes in Central New York,” Murphy said.
Officials unveiled the program in the cafeteria at Ed Smith School, where a few dozen children offered their feedback. Murphy says future months will include cabbage, root vegetables, squash, and berries, depending on what’s in season.
“We're purchasing local, which means our products are being grown, harvested and consumed in a very short window," Murphy said. "When you purchase something that is not local, you have to really build in that travel time for the products to get to your plate. And that does change how it tastes and feels. And nutritionally.”
Murphy says the Farm to School collaborative not only benefits local farmers, but also aims to teach kids to make healthy choices that hopefully continue into adulthood. But it might involve some trial and error with less familiar foods.
“With kids, there's science that backs this. You have to expose the child multiple times to a product For them to come around and accept it," Murphy said. "If you're going to be committed to offering new and unusual items to children, you're going to have to take some loss in the beginning until they're able to identify it, accept it and develop taste for it. But that's our job.”
Other participating school districts include West Genesee, Baldwinsville, and Liverpool.