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Genesee Valley School Secures Grant to Enhance School Meal Nutrition and Establish Partnership with Ellicottville Greens

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Pictured: Farm to School Coordinator Alyssa Dean giving kids a taste of fresh food!

From Allegany County Cornell Cooperative Extension,

Genesee Valley Central School District (GVCSD) was awarded a Healthy Meals Incentives (HMI) Grant in the amount of $119,494 from Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) to support its effort to improve the nutritional quality of school meals and expand farm-to-school efforts. The project is coordinated through a partnership with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Allegany County.

The Healthy Meals Incentives Grant is part of an allocation of nearly $30 million by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service to 264 schools across 44 states and the District of Columbia and is the largest targeted investment that USDA has ever made for school meal programs in small and rural communities.

The nutritional quality of school meals will be improved through a partnership with Ellicottville Greens, an innovative and emerging farm. “By partnering with Ellicottville Greens to grow produce hydroponically, the district will have access to fresh, local leafy greens, microgreens, herbs, and more year-round, which is not typical for WNY due to our limited growing season,” said Project Coordinator and Farm to School Educator, Alyssa Dean.

“Foods that are locally grown are packed full of more flavor and nutrients as there is a shorter distance from harvest to table. In other words, a shorter food supply chain.” Dean commented. “Through this partnership in particular, GVCSD is sourcing superior produce all year long—just one of the ways we are contributing to the goal of improving the nutritional quality of school meals.”

Ellicottville Greens has also committed to contributing a scaled hydroponic tower system for use at GVCSD as an educational tool. The tower will be under the direction of Carolyn Wright, Ag and Tech Teacher, in which she will incorporate hydroponics into her academic curriculum.

In addition to the Ellicottville Greens partnership, the district plans to feature more local agricultural products in school meals from other local farmers and develop new recipes with assistance from HMI grant partner, the Chef Ann Foundation, while engaging students in menu planning efforts like taste testing events and student surveying.

The final project component’s focus is on food preservation. Previously, the district had explored using a vacuum sealer but left out the component of flash freezing. The district will offer temporary student employment opportunities to coincide with various harvest seasons to flash freeze produce that becomes available through Ellicottville Greens and other local farmers.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this comprehensive initiative that offers numerous advantages to GVCSD, the community, and our local economy, as well as being a leader in school food transformation.”

To learn more about other resources USDA provides to strengthen school meal programs, visit the USDA Support for School Meals webpage.

This project has been funded, at least in part, with federal funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The contents of this publication do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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