The Rondout Valley is one of the most fertile and productive agricultural centers in the world – yet many of our families with young children will never eat farm fresh produce, shop at a farmer’s market, or visit a working farm. Many factors limit access to locally-grown food, not the least of which is a food system that promotes commodity foods grown in faraway places.
In 2020, RVGA partnered with Ellenville Rural Health Network, Ellenville School District, ARC of Ulster-Greene, and Cornell Cooperative of Ulster County to bring “Just-a-Bite” to Ellenville’s school children. The Just-a-Bite program purchases local produce from Rondout Valley farmers, processes it into bite-sized portions, and delivers it to school children. Education is a vital component of healthy eating, so the produce is accompanied by information about the local farm, how the produce was grown, cooking instructions, and the health benefits of eating fresh foods. The program is being expanded during 2021 and you can donate to the GoFundMe to help us achieve our goals:
- Expand Just-a-Bite to more Community Eligible Program (CEP) schools, where all children are eligible for 100% free-lunch
- Bridge the financial gap for school cafeterias so they can purchase locally-grown foods to serve in school meals
- Fund trips for school children to visit working farms in the Rondout Valley
- Launch a pilot program to supply FREE Rondout Valley-sourced fresh food boxes for families in CEP schools, with multilingual and multimedia cooking classes
“The Rondout Valley Central School District (RVCSD) and the Rondout Valley Growers Association continue to unite local communities and farmers in sustaining our agricultural heritage. Both our organizations emphatically believe that a sustainable economy, a healthy environment, and a strong community will be the pillars that support our region for years and decades to come.”
— Rosario Agostaro, Rondout Valley Central School District Superintendent
We are continuing to work with local farm to school advocate, chef, and From the Ground Up Director Nicci Cagan, through a Middle School committee to advance Farm-to-School in the Rondout Valley. School gardens are going in and the District has finished construction of a new greenhouse as part of its agriculture education program and Farm-to-School Initiative. RVGA serves as an advisor to the district and is at the ready to bring farmers into the classroom and the greenhouse to help with this exciting initiative. Past events include a Family Farm Day for students and parents with an accompanying farm field guide to deepen the work RVGA is doing to connect the next generation and their families with where and how food is grown.
Here are some examples of what’s been done through the Farm-to-School program:
RVGA worked with Rondout Valley Food Service Director to bring local foods into the cafeteria.
- Led local produce tasting at Kerhonkson Elementary and Marbletown Elementary Schools
- Utilized Rondout Valley High School’s kitchen for processing local produce
- Processed local tomatoes and apples donated by farmers into tomato and apple sauce
- Gleaned Broccoli from local farms through RVGA Farm to Food Pantry Program that was processed and shared with the school district
- Participated in knife skill training as part of the Northeast Farm to School Institute grant
RVGA provided programming in the classroom to teach students about local agriculture.
- In class hummus demonstration and lesson on local food and agriculture with Kerhonkson Elementary second graders and Marbletown Elementary kindergarten and third graders
- Provided teachers with Farm-to-School information to display in their classrooms
- Supported development of Rondout Valley Central School District’s Agricultural and Food Science curricula
- Farm-to-School at RVGA’s Harvest Hoedown and Local Food Barbecue were widely publicized and attended by over 500 people
- Provided handouts on Farm-to-School to be sent home to parents at Kerhonkson and Marbletown Elementary Schools
- Raised awareness of Farm-to-School via Facebook posts
- Participated in National Farm-to-School Month