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Cornell Cooperative Extension Helps Bring Local Food to our Cafeteria

The Seneca County Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) is helping South Seneca cafeterias serve students more local produce through the Farm to School program.
The program began in 2016 and is supported by funding from the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets through CCE. A recently secured second round of funding will carry the effort forward for two more years.
Every few months, CCE staff meet with Kathy Bishop, the South Seneca Food Service Supervisor, to develop the menu for Farm to School days. The goal is that at least one Thursday each month the menu will be made entirely from ingredients grown and processed in New York State. With the help of the Farm to School grant, Seneca County CCE is able to help source and deliver the produce to South Seneca for preparation.
The team is also working to source and incorporate more local items onto the regular rotation of the school lunch menus and celebrate the items that currently come from local farms, such as Upstate milk and apples.
“Locally grown products benefit the students, the farmers and the local economy,” Kathy Bishop said. “We are proud to patronize New York State vendors whenever possible.”
CCE Nutritional Educator Sue Peterson visits the cafeterias to offer taste samples of some of the recipes and teach nutritional information for the food being served. Some of the recipes include “butternutty” mac and cheese (there’s actually an AP style entry for mac and cheese, who knew), which adds a dose of butternut squash to the traditional recipe, and “squashed potatoes” made with white acorn squash.
“This program is a win on so many levels!” said Moira M. Tidball, Seneca County CCE Nutrition Issue Leader. “Of course, we want our kids to eat lots of fruits and veggies for their own health, and when they are locally sourced it helps our local food economy, it’s better for the environment, the food is fresher and packed with more nutrients and it helps create a culture of sustainability and community.”
The Farm to School effort started by supplying both buildings in the South Seneca School District with fruit sectioners to help students easily cut fruit. According to Tidball, Cornell research shows that kids tend to eat more fruit if it is sliced and less fruit is wasted. The sectioners have been very popular among students.
CCE plans to increase communication to parents about the program with a more regular newsletter and posts to both the CCE and South Seneca websites and Facebook pages. Those with questions or seeking more information can contact Tidball at 315-539-9251 or