C.R. Weeks Elementary School served as a backdrop for local officials who announced the expansion of universal free meals in schools and the Breakfast After the Bell and Farm to School programs.
“At the end of the day, we are unable to complete our mission to make our students future-ready if they are worried about going hungry,” said Andrew Fiorentino, Windsor CSD Assistant Superintendent for Business and Administrative services.
With just over half of its students eligible for free and reduced-price lunch, the Windsor Central School District has been a leader in combating childhood hunger. In 2016, Windsor and Maine-Endwell were the first two districts in Broome and Tioga counties to take part in the universal free breakfast program Breakfast after the Bell. This year, 30 districts in Broome and Tioga Counties will take part.
“We’ve gone from serving 6,000 breakfasts per day to 13,000,” said Mark Bordeau, Senior Director of Food Service for Broome Tioga BOCES.
New York State has also increased its commitment to the Farm to School program. According to the Governor’s Office, the program connects schools with local farmers and offers technical assistance and capacity in the school to source products locally to help schools provide students with nutritious meals from food produced by local farms.
In our area, local farms and the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County are helping to implement the Farm to School program. Windsor was also the first to partner with Cornell Cooperative Extension on the Ag in the Classroom program, which is now in 13 districts in Broome, Tioga and Chenango counties.
“We’re bringing Ag into the classroom for the first time since the 1970s,” said Brian Aukema of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County.
“You look at the power of partnerships, this is how we solve problems in the community,” said Broome County Executive Jason Garnar.
On Thursday, community partners and elected officials got to experience the Farm to School program first-hand. The day was the first “New York Thursday”, a program which dedicates one day per month to schools serving a completely locally-sourced meal to students.
“A student’s hunger should never impede their ability to learn,” said State Senator Fred Akshar.
“As a school community, we no longer have to wonder if a child has had breakfast or if they are hungry,” said Fiorentino. “This takes their focus off
hunger and allows them to take full advantage of the great programs (in Windsor).”