Summit Public Schools Among Districts Saluted for Participation in ‘Farm to School Recognition Program’

By TAPinto Summit Staff

Published October 31, 2023 at 11:03 PM
Last Updated October 31, 2023 at 11:14 PM

SUMMIT, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture (NJDA) has saluted the Summit Public Schools and other New Jersey schools and school districts that entered the ‘Farm to School Recognition Program’ for the current school year.

Participants were required to show evidence of working with farmers and the community to ensure students have access to healthy Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables in their school cafeterias and classrooms. School gardens are an integral part of Farm to School activities and provide hands-on education for students to connect to the state’s agricultural history and learn healthy, lifelong eating habits.

In addition, the NJDA presented Joseph F. Cappello School in Mercer County with the Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award during a visit to the school’s garden and cafeteria. The presentation took place during the celebration of the 13th annual ‘Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week’ and initial ‘Ag Literacy Week’ last month.

“Joseph Cappello School’s ability to develop an inclusive school garden is a tribute to their commitment to the Farm to School Program,” said NJDA Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Joe Atchison III said. “Their efforts to incorporate what is grown in the garden into their school meals, donate produce to a local organization, and include agriculture in their curriculum makes them truly deserving of this award.”

Principal Clara Bigos and students from the school’s Green Team were on hand to accept the award and share their successes in school garden Thursday morning.

The school created a garden with wheelchair accessibility, to enable students of all abilities to participate. The school has also implemented teaching students wellness and healthy living as well as providing opportunities for teaching responsibility, ownership, teamwork, and community through the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Climate Change education.

After planting seedlings, students transplanted the plants into garden beds and raised garden beds. The school also established a “Green Team,” which is comprised of various school members that meet and collaborate on ideas and lead the care, organization and needs of the garden. Throughout the Extended School Year summer program, the garden served as a living laboratory where students practiced ownership, collaboration, and responsibility.

With the cooperation of cafeteria staff, students used produce for Farm to Table to sample and incorporate healthy foods into their lunches. Classes also utilized the Jersey Fresh website to practice following recipes, while incorporating produce, specifically making zucchini muffins to share with the school community. After the extended school year program ended in mid-August, extra produce was donated to the Visitation Home in Hamilton, N.J., which serves as a day program for adults with special needs.

In addition to the Summit Public Schools and Joseph F. Cappello School, ‘Farm to School Recognition Program Schools’ include: Henry P. Becton Regional High School, Hopewell Valley School District, Linden Public School District, North Dover Elementary – Dover Public School District. Rahway Public School District, Springfield School District, Union Public School District and Washington School – Nutley Public School District/

Schools will receive Jersey Fresh Farm to School promotional materials kits including a Jersey Fresh Farm to School banner, aprons, taste test stickers, Jersey Tastes posters and seasonality charts.

The influence of the Farm to School Program has led to almost 500 schools purchasing local. More than 300 of the districts buying local have implemented cafeteria programs using Harvest of the Month promotional material to highlight the nutritional value of local items. Nearly 200 districts use a curriculum that ties cafeteria meals to healthy eating education and/or field trips to farms.

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