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Photo of one of Riverside School
Officials See First-Hand the Benefit of School Gardens to Students, Community

For Immediate Release: September 26, 2011
Contact: Lynne Richmond
(609) 633-2954

(PRINCETON) – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher today kicked off the first Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week by touring the Riverside Elementary School garden in Princeton, which is used as an outdoor classroom for the school and a training ground for other schools seeking to start their own gardens.

“Farm to School Week is our opportunity to reinforce the importance of using fresh, wholesome local produce in school meals, but also to educate students about where their food comes from and how vital it is to have farms in New Jersey,” said Secretary Fisher.  “We hope more schools will be inspired to partner with farmers to purchase Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables and start their own school gardens.”

Photo of Pat Dombroski, Secretary Fisher and Dr. Tina Tan from Dept of Health and Senior Services
Patricia Dombroski, USDA Food and Nutrition Service Regional Administrator and Dr. Tina Tan, Acting Health and Senior Services Commissioner, joined Secretary Fisher in Riverside School's garden.

Farm to School Week was designated by Governor Christie and the State Legislature as the last week in September each year to promote the state’s agricultural industry and encourage children and their families to increase their consumption of fresh produce.  The week also seeks to educate about the health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables and show the connection between a healthy diet and success in school.

The Riverside Elementary School garden began shortly after September 11, 2001 as a peace-oriented service project by parent Dorothy Mullen, who now serves as Garden Artist in Residence and coordinates the garden program.

“It’s the largest public school garden in New Jersey,” said Mullen, a trained Master Gardener.  “Every child, every teacher uses the garden.  We house workshops for educators and how they can start gardens.”

Photo of group of federal, state and school officials at the Riverside School garden

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. Opportunities exist for state farmers to provide agricultural products to school food service departments throughout the growing season. The object of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias is to improve student nutrition, provide health and nutrition education opportunities that will last a lifetime, as well as support local farmers.

Additionally, the farm to school program includes school garden activities, which help teach students where food comes from by growing it themselves. Students benefit by learning the science behind farming and the nutritional values of fresh products, as well as gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the environment. Educators can use school garden programs to teach any subject - math, science, language arts, health and nutrition or social studies. Finally, farm to school programs create a sense of community for all involved with the related activities.

Farm to School Week is an initiative of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture in cooperation with the New Jersey Farm to School Network.  The bill creating Farm to School Week was sponsored by Senators Jim Whelan and Steven Oroho and Assemblymen John McKeon and John Burzichelli and Assemblywoman Annette Quijano.

Other events planned to celebrate Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week this year include an apple tasting at Village Elementary School in West Windsor on Tuesday; a school food service tour of Tri-County Cooperative Auction Market in East Windsor on Wednesday; a potatoes and corn cooking contest at P.S. #17 in Jersey City on Thursday; and corn made three ways and a Made with Jersey Fresh tasting at Gloria M. Sabater Elementary School in Vineland on Friday.

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