A new grant program is now offering creative solutions to the problem of food shortages for students. It is called Connecticut Grown For Connecticut Kids, and it’s funding the farm-to-table concept for schools.
New Britain Schools have already been making strides to bring local food to students’ plates, and people involved say this new funding is important.
State leaders announced the launch of the program at Gaffney Elementary School Tuesday morning.
“Farm-to-School programming offers so many opportunities in Connecticut,” Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz said.
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The pilot program, administered by the departments of Agriculture and Education, will be funded for two years with a total of $500,0000. Eligible organizations can apply for nearly $25,000.
“Not only are we investing in school systems, we’re investing in students and building that programming, but those dollars go straight to Connecticut farms, and invest in them,” Bryan Hurlburt, Department of Agriculture commissioner, said.
State leaders and local school officials celebrated at the ceremony with a sweet fall treat: homemade applesauce, made from the apples at Rogers Orchards in Southington.
“It's an orchard that we've used now for about several years,” Jeffrey Taddeo, resident district manager For Whitsons Culinary Group, said.
That is the kind of food leaders in New Britain Schools want to see on students’ plates. The district is already locally sourcing meals served up in cafeterias.
“We introduce farm-to-school to the students on a daily basis. Right now, we're sourcing a variety of peaches, apples, and pears,” Taddeo said.
As of Tuesday, the grant program offers funding to support these efforts. New Britain Schools Superintendent Nancy Sarra says the initiative is a priority, and students have already been learning about farm-to-table while getting their hands dirty in greenhouses built at each of the district’s 17 schools.
“Every student has an opportunity to put their hands in the soil, grow something from seed, and, and reap the benefits,” Sarra said. “We really want to introduce our students to urban farming, or a life of agriculture.”
The greenhouses, run in partnership with New Britain Roots, also address food insecurity.
“A lot of students and families throughout New Britain do experience food insecurity,” Annalise Kieley, Communications and Development Coordinator with New Britain Roots, said.
She explains the food grown in the greenhouses may end up in classrooms for educational activities or served in school cafeterias. Kieley says the food also serves a need in the wider community.
“We sell the food that's grown in the school gardens on our mobile market that goes into neighborhoods throughout New Britain where folks don't necessarily have access to fresh locally grown food,” she said.
State leaders say the grant was partially announced in response to food insecurity illuminated in Connecticut during the pandemic.
“I learned that some people don't eat every day,” Taddeo said. “That's, it's an emotional topic for me, because it really hit home. I unfortunately I had experienced food insecurity as a young child.”
It is why Taddeo hopes Connecticut Grown For Connecticut Kids will fund more positive food experiences.
“I can really understand what some of these children are going through,” he said. “Every day that I wake up, I'm going to make sure these kids get the best meals that are available. And we're going source as much as we can to give them the healthiest, most nutritious meals that we can.”