Farm to School Program Spotlight: CCE Niagara

Becky O'Connor, Farm to School Coordinator, WNY & Finger Lakes
Harvest New York

February 12, 2021

A student prepares a F2S meal kitCredit CCE Niagara County

Instead of scrapping plans for Kids Cook Monday family cooking nights, Lockport City School District and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County came up with a new plan: a remote version of the events featuring a meal kit-style delivery.

The district's original plan when it received a USDA Farm to School Planning Grant was to offer the events in-person during the 2020-2021 school year, in partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County. At the district's K-6 schools, CCE Niagara F2S Coordinator Mollie McDonough would lead families in preparing meals together using locally-sourced ingredients. When COVID-19 took in-person meetings off the table, Mollie and the district decided to pivot rather than putting off the events until the spring in hopes of being able to meet face-to-face.

For their first event they selected Three Sisters Soup and Easy Cornbread for the recipes, and got to work sourcing local ingredients: butternut squash, black beans, garlic, tomatoes, onions, milk, vanilla yogurt, and cornmeal. To prepare the meal kits, food service staff and lunch monitors measured and pre-portioned the ingredients and packed them into reusable shopping bags emblazoned with Lockport's Farm to School logo. Thanks to CCE Niagara's NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets Farm to School grant, they were also able to include recipe cards, flexible cutting boards, and safety knives in each kit. Mollie also made videos demonstrating the recipes. The recipe cards included a QR code students could scan using their school iPads to bring up the recipe demonstration videos. In addition to all of this, they even worked in a training for Lockport's Farm to School food service staff on preparing dried beans.

200 kits were sent home in October. There was so much interest in the program that they repeated the effort in November, sending home another 200 kits the week before Thanksgiving. Mollie shared, "It was fantastic to reach so many families in the community and have kids get their hands on local products, and cook together as a family.  But I really enjoyed seeing a district take it's first steps in local procurement and learning how to use a local product like dried beans.  It may be a community project that doesn't translate into sustained use at this time, but I think it was a good introduction for them. Food service staff and lunch monitors were very enthusiastic about their involvement."

Mollie worked on a similar project with North Tonawanda City Schools. 500 kits were sent home along with a video from their food service director demonstrating how to prepare yogurt parfaits using Upstate Farms yogurt and Perfect Granola. Check out the video of Chef Ben!

Mollie is working on a short virtual training geared towards lunch monitors which will be available to Lockport CSD in early 2021, and other districts after that. In the meanwhile, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Niagara County's Farm to School page has some great resources to support your Farm to School program, from menu templates to lesson plans.

Lockport CSD Meal KitCredit CCE Niagara County
Preparing 3 Sisters SoupCredit CCE Niagara County

Upcoming Events

Urban Berry Project: Growing Strawberries 101

May 29, 2024
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Upper Manhattan, NY

Join Makela Elvy, Anya Osatuke, and Dan Olmstead from Cornell University, along with the NYRP Urban Ag team, for a deep dive into everything strawberry! For beginning gardeners and advanced growers alike, this hands-on workshop will include an introduction to some of the preferred NYC-loving varieties, as well as a chance to plant out a new bed of strawberries in the Riley-Levin Demonstration Garden. SPACE is LIMITED! Registration is required.

New York State Honeyberry Conference

June 29, 2024
8:30 am - 4:30 pm
Mexico, NY

Join CCE Oswego and CCE Harvest NY for a state-wide conference on a new emerging fruit called Honeyberry, also known as Haskap (Lonicera caerulea). Honeyberries are a dark blue color, like blueberries, but with a distinct oval shape. The taste is most associated with raspberry and blueberry, while also containing its own distinctive flavor. The fruit can grow in USDA Plant Hardiness zones 1 to 8 and can survive up to 30 years or longer if properly managed. What makes the fruit unique is that it ripens from the middle of June through early July. This allows the fruit to sit comfortably between the strawberry and blueberry season. When fully mature plants can produce 6 to 10 lbs. of berries, which can be eaten as a fresh fruit or made into value-added products.

The conference will cover the history of the fruit, best growing practices, processing, value-added production, and marketing. Guest speakers will include growers and researchers from the US and Canada, including Dr. Bob Bors from the University of Saskatchewan. Attendees will also be able to network and attend an optional farm tour immediately after the conference. 


Field Guide: Arthropod Pests of NYC Vegetables

Arthropod Pests of NYC Vegetables aims to help urban farmers and gardeners find, identify, and understand the most common and important insects and other arthropod pests found in New York City farms and gardens. Some of these pests are rarely mentioned in other guides but are common in NYC. The guide emphasizes scouting tips, including how to identify pests by the damage they leave behind, even when you can't find the insect itself.

This guide was created as a collaboration between Cornell Cooperative Extension's Harvest New York team and the New York State Integrated Pest Management Program.