New York and Pennsylvania provide grant funding for farm-to-school programs

Also in this week’s legislative update: Oklahoma says okay to electronic school meal applications and New Hampshire lawmakers rework a bill that would make a handful of changes to school nutrition programs.
Students hold vegetables in a garden
Grant funding is being offered in New York and Pennsylvania to boost farm-to-school efforts. | Photo: Shutterstock

Farm-to-school programs in New York and Pennsylvania are getting a financial jumpstart thanks to farm-to-school grant funding. Also at the state level this week, Oklahoma permits the use of electronic school meal applications and lawmakers in New Hampshire make changes to a bill that would make multiple changes to school nutrition programs.

Here’s the latest in school nutrition legislation.

New York and Pennsylvania dig into farm-to-school

Farm-to-school programs are getting a financial boost in New York and Pennsylvania

In New York, Governor Kathy Hochul announced that $10 million has been awarded in round one of the state’s New York’s Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program.

The state announced the grant program last fall to support school nutrition programs’ efforts to improve cafeteria kitchens and create meals from scratch using local ingredients. The state expects to award $50 million in grant funding over five years to eligible applicants through the program.

Recipients of the round one funding include Buffalo City School District and Champlain Valley Educational Services.

Buffalo City will use its $5 million in grant money to set up a commissary that will provide nutritional support to 97 schools. A portion of the funds will go toward setting up a vegetable preparation and processing area, ingredient room and more. In addition, some of the grant funding will be used to establish a test kitchen and chef brigade, which would be responsible for developing recipes using local ingredients.

Champlain Valley Education Services has also received $5 million to create a central food hub with two educational faculties and to retrofit existing cafeterias in the North County region of the state. The central food hub is intended to help consolidate school food processing and preparation and provide staffing relief at the 16 schools Champlain Valley serves.

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding announced that applications are open for the state’s $500,000 farm-to-school grant program. Schools can apply to receive up to $15,000 to go toward eligible farm-to-school projects.

Funding for the grant program came out of Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro’s state budget.

"These grants are an investment in our children's health and their future," said Secretary Redding in a statement. "Introducing kids to fresh, local food enriches the connection between families and local producers and imparts meaningful changes in the lives of our youth while strengthening their bond with their communities. Funded Farm-to School Grant programs enable students to learn about local farmers, make healthy choices, and explore exciting career opportunities."

Free and reduced-price meal applications go electronic in Oklahoma

School nutrition professionals in Oklahoma will now be able to use electronic school meal applications thanks to a bill that was signed into law by Governor Kevin Stitt.  

SB 1324 directs the State Department of Education to permit the electronic applications, which allow families to apply for their children to receive reduced-price or free meals at school. Families would not be required to use the electronic application format.

Collecting school meal applications has been a reported pain point for many school nutrition operators. In a K-12 operator survey by the School Nutrition Association (SNA), 90.1% of respondents reported issues with getting families to fill out free and reduced-price meal application forms.

Switching to electronic applications could make it easier on families to fill out and return the forms.

New Hampshire amends school nutrition bill

A Senate bill in New Hampshire that would make multiple changes to school nutrition programs has been scaled back in the House.

In its original version, SB 499 would make a handful of changes to school nutrition programs in the state, including requiring schools to offer electronic school meal application forms. It would also allow schools to receive extra federal funding if they create a wellness policy as required by the 2010 Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act.

In addition, the bill’s original text would require schools to serve breakfast at school. Currently, schools are required to only serve lunch. Districts would also be permitted to provide Breakfast after the Bell, a program where students are served breakfast shortly after the start of their school day.

The original bill would also direct the state to participate in the federal Summer EBT program which provides financial assistance to allow low-income families to purchase food during the summer months while their children are out of school.

The original bill passed the Senate, but the House Finance Committee Division III recently voted to amend the bill to get rid of the above provisions. Later this month, the House Finance Committee will vote on whether to adopt the amendment and send the bill to the House.



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