By Eric Banford
CAROLINE — Even more fresh snacks are coming to Ithaca area students.
The Fresh Snack Program has added Caroline Elementary School to its locations this school year, joining Beverly J. Martin, Enfield and Belle Sherman elementary schools in providing healthy fruits and vegetables as snacks for students. With this addition, the program now serves approximately 1,230 Pre-K through 5th grade students in the Ithaca City School District.
Also new is a partnership with Crooked Carrot Community Supported Kitchen, which has expanded the program’s ability to get fresh, local produce into the hands – and mouths – of local students.
“FSP replaces less nutritious snacks that parents or teachers otherwise pay for, increases access to fresh plant-based foods, familiarizes students with healthier food choices, and connects youth with their local food system,” said Audrey Baker, director of the Fresh Snack Program and Farm to School coordinator for the Youth Farm Project. The first FSP offering of the new school year consisted of yellow watermelon from Stick and Stone Farm in Trumansburg, red watermelon from Eddydale Farm in Ithaca and tomatoes from Youth Farm Project in Danby.
“This expands the local market for local farmers and creates a new channel that helps local produce get to consumers,” said Silas Conroy, co-owner of Crooked Carrot. “I think it’s especially helpful because it’s steady, twice a week throughout the entire school year. When farmers have abundances we’ll be able to plan that in.
“What I’m really excited about for our business is developing partnerships throughout the community that allow us to use our experience and our competencies,” he added. “We can then partner with YFP that has developed all of these relationships with schools, cafeterias, teachers, parents; and then together we’re both able to focus on what we’re good at, and to expand the function of the local food system.”
Crooked Carrot has been working with students from Lehman Alternative Community School for the past five years, coordinating various work opportunities helping with everything from planting to growing to harvesting, preparing and packaging, and even delivering fresh snacks to the schools.
“The students come out once a week to help in some way, and our hope is that this will introduce them to local food in general, and to the idea of a local food business,” said Conroy. “Hopefully it breaks down the barriers for some of those kids to start their own food business some day, or at least be interested in applying for a job at a local food business.”
Mary Grover, principal at Caroline Elementary, is “thrilled” her school is partnering with the Fresh Snack Program and the school district’s nutrition services department “to bring healthy snacks – some locally grown by children in the Ithaca community – to our students.”
“The Fresh Snack Program, combined with Cool School Food lunch entrées, Caroline’s vegetable garden and our Farm to Table Event are increasing awareness of and options for healthier food at our school,” she added. “ look forward to building upon this partnership to do even more for our community.”
According to the FSP, its program launched at BJM in 2008 through collaboration between the Coalition for Healthy School Food and GreenStar Community Projects. The program continues to provide all BJM students with a half-cup serving of nutritious fruit and vegetable snacks each school day.
The program expanded to Enfield in the fall of 2014, and Belle Sherman in the fall of 2015. An additional daily snack bowl is also prepared for Southside Community Center’s afterschool program, thanks to support from the Rotary Foundation.
In June, YFP became host of the program, a merger that allows FSP to tie together elementary education with teen-focused food and farming programs.
“The meal program and education are treated separately, and if you’re just feeding kids then not much is going to change. With FSP, we have announcements every day about the snack: Nutritional, cultural and historical facts about the food,” said Baker. “We’ve been working with Antonia Demas, creator of Food is Elementary, to introduce her whole food nutrition curriculum into FSP classrooms. We’re working with her to train our staff and LACS students so we can carry forth her curriculum and grow it in our snack program.”
By including this educational component, the program has a lasting impact on its participants at every level.
“One of the major pluses of this merger is that we are building in these bridges between youth and mentorship around community and school foods,” said Baker. “The teens are treated as responsible members of our community who are participants in the world in a way that really does have an impact.”
As the school year begins, LACS students will be involved in three off-campus projects that feed into the Fresh Snack Program.
“These projects are a perfect example of how education can offer our young people avenues for learning that empower them to make positive changes in their world,” said Dan Flerlage, a teacher at LACS and co-founder of YFP.
For more information, visit www.youthfarmproject.org, or contact Audrey Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org or (607) 592-2902.