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September 23, 2019   
PO Box 330
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0330                     

Jeff Wolfe
P: (609) 633-2954
C: (609) 433-1785


Philip’s Academy Charter School Recognized for Connecting Students with Local Produce

(NEWARK) – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture today presented Philip’s Academy Charter School in Newark with the “Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award” on the school’s rooftop garden. The presentation kicked off the celebration of the 9th annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week being held September 23-27.

“Philip’s Academy’s emphasis on food education throughout the school is the reason the school was this year’s winner,” NJDA Secretary Douglas Fisher said. “From growing produce in the rooftop garden, the classroom teaching kitchen, a weekly farmers market for school families and a partnership with AeroFarms, the Philip’s Academy EcoSpaces program exemplifies the spirit of this award.”

EcoSpaces Founding Director Frank Mentesana and team, along with school Principal Yasmeen Sampson, culinary staff and approximately 40 students were on hand to accept the award.

“The EcoSpaces Program was created at Philip’s Academy, our model school almost 10 years ago to be an integral part of the fabric of the school,” Mentesana said. “What has been really significant is to see the way the students and staff have embraced the entire philosophy. The ability to have a curriculum that encourages students to incorporate healthy eating habits into their daily routine not only benefits them now, but hopefully well into the future.”

Philip’s Academy Charter School has built a comprehensive food literacy program called EcoSpaces Education during the past 10 years. It connects farm to school activities in all aspects of the curriculum and classroom as well as lunchroom settings.

New Jersey schools that entered the Farm to School Recognition Program for the current school year were required to show evidence of working with farmers and the community to ensure students have access to healthy fruits and vegetables in their school cafeterias and classrooms. This year, each school that applied shared information about school garden activities as well as a commitment to taste tests of fresh fruits and vegetables either in the cafeteria or in the classroom.

Joining Philip’s Academy Charter School as Farm to School Recognition Program Schools are:

  • Absegami High School, Galloway
  • Bridgeton High School, Bridgeton
  • Broad Street School, Bridgeton
  • Donald M. Payne Sr. School of Technology, Newark
  • East Amwell Township Elementary School, East Amwell
  • East Orange STEM Academy High School, East Orange     
  • Essex County West Caldwell Tech, West Caldwell
  • Field Street Elementary School, Penns Grove
  • Gloria M. Sabater Elementary, Vineland
  • Hamburg Elementary School, Hamburg
  • Cherry Street School, Bridgeton
  • JC Shaner School, Mays Landing
  • Juan Pablo Duarte-Jose Julian Marti School #28, Elizabeth
  • Mount Vernon Elementary School, Newark
  • National Park Elementary School, National Park
  • Unity Charter School, Morristown    

Schools received Jersey Fresh Farm to School promotional materials kits including a Jersey Fresh Farm to School banner, aprons, taste test stickers, Jersey Tastes posters and seasonality charts.

Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week was designated as the last week of each September by a law signed in 2010. During this week, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture showcases schools that connect with New Jersey farmers to purchase local produce for school meals to increase student consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.  

Farm to School activities can include, but are not exclusive to: 

  • Nutrition education, including taste tests with produce purchased from local farms
  • Harvest meals serving locally sourced products from New Jersey farms
  • Farm to School curricular tie-ins that connect the cafeteria to the classroom or school garden
  • Visits to or from local farms that teach students how food is grown
  • School garden education that ties directly into what is already being taught in the classroom

The influence of the Farm to School Program led to more than 250 schools purchasing local produce from their main distributor, more than 200 districts buying local produce directly from farms and using a curriculum that ties cafeteria meals to healthy eating education and more than 100 districts organizing field trips to farms.

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To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at and or Twitter @NJDA and @JerseyFreshNJDA.