LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education will consider signing on to an initiative to get more local farm-grown foods into its schools.
Initiative Director Ruth Pino, who is also the food service director for the Saranac Lake Central School District and has worked with Lake Placid's school food system in the past, joined Lake Placid science teacher Tammy Morgan, elementary school teacher Tom Dodd, high school senior Erin Weaver and Brittany Harris of the North Country Healthy Heart Network to tell the school board about the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative.
Pino explained that she started the initiative because she saw a number of groups in the area doing good things that were similar but lacked organization or cohesion.
Lake Placid High School senior Erin Weaver asks the school board to sign on the Adirondack Farm to School Initiative at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. Beside her in front, from left, are Ruth Pino and Tammy Morgan.
(Enterprise photo — Jessica Collier)
The goal of the initiative is to have 15 percent of fruits and vegetables used in the school cafeteria be locally grown by 2015, Weaver said. The initiative hopes to connect school gardens and cafeterias with area farms.
Weaver said including more local farm-grown foods in the cafeteria menu would help students grow and become more critical thinkers, since they would learn about where their food comes from. It would help them realize they have the power to affect what they eat, Weaver said.
"I think I speak for a lot of the student body when I say that that's definitely something that we'd be excited about," Weaver said.
She gave the board a letter of commitment she wants it to consider approving.
She said she isn't happy with how the cafeteria is currently run, and it's important to her to see foods that appeal to everyone in the school.
"As a healthful-minded student, I didn't really eat in the cafeteria," Weaver said. "Ever."
Weaver said she started getting involved in environmental activism after taking a class with Morgan.
Morgan said she has been working the school's gardens into her science class curriculum, and she said it's a great learning tool that kids get into.
"They all eat," she said. "This is a very personal subject for all of them."
Three seniors other than Weaver attended the meeting, and Morgan said it was because they are all interested in working on food initiatives for their senior projects.
The new standards for science curriculum stress real-life experiences and solution-oriented work, and these lessons satisfy those requirements well, Morgan said.
Dodd has been working the elementary school's six classroom gardens into his curriculum as well, and he plans to have the kids in the Environmental Club he advises plant garlic and shovel dirt in the gardens soon to prepare them for winter. He had students from North Country School there over the summer to help with planting vegetables and flowers, and he's looking forward to future partnerships with them.
Pino said there were many challenges when she kicked off the initiative, like access, some local produce costing more, and the added time cafeteria workers need to prepare raw vegetables when they don't receive them already processed.
She said she's working through those challenges and has made some good strides in Saranac Lake. Her district is the only one that has officially signed onto the initiative so far, but she is meeting with Tupper Lake Central School District officials this week, and the group works with other schools like North Country School as well.
The group put together a list of price comparisons, and while they found many crops are more expensive to buy locally, there are a few, like carrots and green beans, that may be cheaper, Harris said.
She helped conduct an online survey of the area farm community to ask whether farmers would be interested in selling to institutions, whether they could lower their prices for such sales, and if they could deliver produce to schools. She said the results were encouraging, with 89 percent saying they were interested in selling to schools and 86 percent saying they could deliver.
There are a number of grants available for farm-to-school initiatives like this one, Pino said. If Lake Placid signs onto it, she could start the process of writing grants for things like processing equipment and cafeteria staff training. The initiative has a few people involved who are willing to put together grant applications, she said.
Contact Jessica Collier at 891-2600 ext. 26 or firstname.lastname@example.org.