IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:
September 28, 2017 www.nj.gov/agriculture
PO Box 330
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0330
P: (609) 633-2954
C: (609) 433-1785
(CHATHAM) – New Jersey Department of Agriculture Division of Food and Nutrition Director Rose Tricario and Farm To School coordinators Beth Feehan and Chris Cirkus visited Lafayette Elementary School and Chatham High School in Chatham today as part of Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week to highlight the schools’ efforts to incorporate local produce into their meal programs.
Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week was designated as the last week of each September by a law signed in 2010 by Governor Christie and the seventh annual celebration is taking place September 25-29. During this time, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture has been showcasing schools that connect with New Jersey farmers to purchase local produce for school meals to increase student consumption of healthy produce.
“Thanks to the Jersey Fresh Farm to School program and our successful partnerships in schools in the state, students are eating more fresh local produce, growing their own fruits and vegetables in school gardens, and learning about good nutrition," said New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher. "Students, like the ones at Lafayette School and Chatham High School are benefiting greatly from finding out about the importance of our state's agriculture industry and having fun eating what our farmers grow and what they grow in their own garden."
Director Tricario and Feehan visited the school's garden, which was launched in the spring of 2016. The Lafayette School’s Environmental Club came up with the idea and space for a school garden in 2015. After studying the space and doing extensive research, the garden was launched with funding help from the school’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and from school Principal Cheryl Russo. The students also started a mobile edible garden wall that was placed in the cafeteria, where students can see new plants as they begin to grow.
In March, the students move plants to the Lafayette School greenhouse, which was refurbished in 2007, and then later to the garden outside. The outside garden includes raised bed kits that were assembled during environmental club meetings after school. By the end of the year, the students saw plants grown in their own school garden during salad bar day at lunch.
“Our students were very motivated to start our school garden and have continued that momentum with the care of it after it began,” said Principal Russo. “The fact they invested so much of their own time to research where and how the garden would work best for our setting was also a key to the garden’s success. It is very rewarding to know we have students who are motivated and care about finding ways for us to eat healthy foods.”
With encouragement from the school’s PTO, some menu changes made by the school in the last two years include having a salad bar during lunch, increasing the variety of salad offerings at the K-3 schools and adding veggie cups, fresh whole fruits, turkey hot dogs, and turkey & cheese wraps. Also, approximately 700 students created a healthy menu through the Menu Challenge at Lafayette.
Chatham High School also has been active in the Farm To School program. The high school has its own garden and uses a Rocket Composter purchased with the help of the Chatham Township Environmental Committee. During its first year of use, School District of Chatham’s Food Service Director Bob McBreen reported that nearly 3,500 pounds of food waste became compost. It also has saved the school money as it did not need to purchase compost for the school grounds.
“Having a composter has been a major factor in us becoming more efficient with what we do not use,” McBreen said. “It not only saves us from having to deal with more waste, but the composter turns what would be waste into something that benefits the entire school.”
For more information on the New Jersey Farm to School Program, visit www.farmtoschool.nj.gov.
To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/NJDeptofAgriculture and www.facebook.com/JerseyFreshOfficial or Twitter @NJDA1 and @JerseyFreshNJDA.