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Grant Helps NJ Farm-to-School Project Continue; Vineland Schools Serve as “Tasting” Ground

April 30, 2013 | Community News, Vineland

George Steinbronn, Jr., CEO, Cumberland Cape Atlantic YMCA; N.J. Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher; Darrin Anderson, NJPHK-Deputy Director; Vineland Mayor Ruben Bermudez; Cumberland County Freeholder Sam Fiocchi; Lisa Scheetz, NJPHK-Vineland Program Manager; and Diane Holtaway, Rutgers Food Innovation Center, sample the Berry Yogurt Parfaits

When New Jersey’s Department of Agriculture sought to announce the receipt of a $62,713 U.S. Department of Agriculture Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program grant, Vineland proved to be the perfect place to host the press conference. The grant, the second that was awarded, will help continue work started with Rutgers Food Innovation Center on a project to bring Made with Jersey Fresh items to schools throughout the state.

The initial $51,000 grant provided the Department of Agriculture the opportunity to work with the Innovation Center to develop farm-to-school menu items that meet the nutritional, cost and shelf-life needs for school meals, and are also appealing to students.

“When we received that initial grant, we partnered with New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids to help us place samples of the farm-to-school products,” said Diane Holtaway, associate director of client services, Rutgers Food Innovation Center. “Together, we made a great decision to place samples on the regular lunch line in Vineland schools, and we’re excited to announce that with additional funding from NJPHK, we were able to bring more healthy breakfast items to the menu in June.”

The new grant is being used to establish a “value-added farm-to-fork” process that will serve as a model for the state and other regions, by identifying a means to integrate locally grown foods into the commodity school food service program. “We’ve been working with farmers and schools to increase the amount of fresh produce used in the school meals programs during our growing season,” said Secretary Douglas H. Fisher, N. J. Department of Agriculture. “This project will make locally grown Made with Jersey Fresh products available to students throughout the school year.”

The press conference was held at the Landis Intermediate School in Vineland, where Secretary Fisher, other dignitaries and project supporters gathered to personally observe students’ reactions to the products developed under the first grant, including Berry Yogurt Parfaits and Eggplant Parmesan Pizza.

“The feedback from the school and the students has been outstanding,” said Lisa Scheetz, NJPHK-Vineland. “We’re thrilled to work with Diane Holtaway and the Rutgers Food Innovation Center. It’s truly a win-win, as we are able to continue our efforts to combat childhood obesity through education and access to healthier food choices.”

Rutgers Food Innovation Center is a unique food business incubator and processing facility, funded by the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Center. Diane Holtaway noted that the intent of the Farm-to-School project is to develop school breakfast and lunch items that delight students’ taste buds with local produce, while developing new revenue opportunities for agricultural producers and processors.

According to the N.J. Department of Agriculture, more than 800,000 pounds of locally grown fruits and vegetables are distributed annually to schools under a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense. Through the Farm-to-School program, schools throughout New Jersey can source more than 100 types of Jersey Fresh produce grown here in the Garden State.

Learn more about the program at the N.J. Department of Agriculture website.

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