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Governor Hochul Awards $10 Million Through New York’s Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program

Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that $10 million has been awarded through round one of New York’s Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program. Projects in the North Country and in Western New York were awarded $5 million each to improve meal preparation and distribution for Kindergarten through Grade 12 students. First announced in the Governor’s 2023 State of the State, the program will provide $50 million over five years to eligible applicants in all ten regions of New York State to facilitate the on-site processing and preparation of fresh, nutritious meals, increase the use of more healthy, local New York food products, and provide a boost to New York farmers.

“As Governor, I want to make sure that all New Yorkers have fresh, locally grown, nutritious foods to eat,” Governor Hochul said. “The Regional School Food Infrastructure program tackles this challenge head on by ensuring that our schools have the equipment they need to cook from scratch. This is just one great example of how we’re connecting the dots within our food systems, reducing food insecurity while increasing market opportunities for farmers, and strengthening the resiliency of our state’s food system.”

In each round of the program, two regions will be awarded $5 million each. Two additional regions will be awarded $5 million each in subsequent rounds, until all regions are awarded through five rounds. The projects awarded in round one are:

  • Buffalo City School District (Western New York) is being awarded $5,000,000 to assist in equipping a commissary that provides nutritional support to 97 schools. Grant funds will be used to establish a vegetable preparation and processing area, ingredient room, packing system, and additional infrastructure necessary to establish contracted delivery of products prepared and packaged using New York ingredients. This award will also support community engagement through a test kitchen and chef brigade passing on locally sourced cooking recipes.
  • Champlain Valley Educational Services (Clinton-Essex-Warren-Washington BOCES) (North Country) is being awarded $5,000,000 to establish a central food hub, two state-of-the-art educational facilities, and retrofit existing school cafeterias in the North Country region. The project will consolidate school food processing and preparation at the new food hub, while also reducing staffing pressures faced by schools and increasing the nutritional value and local focus of the foods served at 16 component school districts and at CVES BOCES.

Administered by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program is providing the resources schools need to aggregate, store, process, and prepare farm products, and making it possible to cook fresh, nutritious, scratch made meals for school children. The program also encourages workforce development by providing training to schools, communities, and students for culinary arts, food processing, safe food handling and storage, logistics, delivery, and more, based on community need.

State Agriculture Commissioner Richard A. Ball said, “The Regional School Food Infrastructure program is supporting our farmers while ensuring that our children have enough local, fresh meals to fuel them as they learn. Today’s awarded projects are great examples of how we can collaborate to streamline and strengthen our food system here in New York State. I thank Governor Hochul for her support of this program and congratulate the awardees, and I look forward to seeing the impact that these projects will make in our Western New York and North Country communities.”

State Education Commissioner Dr. Betty A. Rosa said, “Connecting local farms to school nutrition is a win-win for our students and New York’s farmers. Consistent, reliable access to nutritious meals is directly linked to improved student performance and to overall health and well-being. We appreciate the ongoing cooperation of the governor and the Department of Agriculture and Markets in ensuring that all students have access to a healthy diet. Through the Regional School Food Infrastructure Grant Program, we will build upon New York’s ongoing efforts to provide all students with access to healthy and nutritious meals made with fresh and local fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.”

Assistant Superintendent of Management Services for Champlain Valley Educational Services Dr. Eric Bell said, “We are thrilled to receive this grant, as it allows us to prioritize child nutrition by providing nutritious, locally sourced meals made from scratch. The grant enables us to establish a centralized food hub, addressing staffing shortages while enhancing meal quality for students regionally. Additionally, we'll expand culinary arts training in Clinton and Essex County to meet workforce demands. This grant propels us toward creating healthier communities, and we're grateful for the opportunity.”

Buffalo Public School Superintendent Dr. Tonja M. Williams said, “The Buffalo Public Schools provide Buffalo students and those in the community with free locally grown fresh foods while at the same time creating a sustainable new marketplace for local socially-economically disadvantaged farmers and growers. I applaud Governor Kathy Hochul and Agricultural Commissioner Richard Ball for providing this $5 million to help reduce food insecurity and ensure our students continue to receive high-quality nutritious meals that enhance their overall health and improve their readiness for learning. Again, this funding will go a long way towards providing our students with fresh and healthy foods when at school.”

The Regional School Food Infrastructure program builds on New York’s many programs that prioritize local foods in schools, including tools to help school districts procure and purchase farm products from local producers, ensuring that New York remains New York’s first and best customer. The FY 2024 Enacted Budget raised the discretionary threshold for food purchasing for schools to $150,000, a significant increase from the previous threshold.

Additionally, the successful Farm-to-School program connects schools with local farms and food producers to strengthen local agriculture, improve student health, and promote regional food systems awareness. Through the program, the Department of Agriculture and Markets provides financial, technical, and promotional assistance to schools, farms, distributors, and other supporting organizations to bring more local, nutritious, seasonally varied meals to New York students.

The 30 Percent New York State Initiative further facilitates the provision of healthy New York sourced food products to children as part of their lunch meal in school. The initiative increases the reimbursement schools receive for lunches from 5.9 cents per meal to 25 cents per meal for any district that ensures their school lunches are made up of at least 30 percent eligible New York produced and processed products. Since the Department of Agriculture and Markets took over administration of the program as part of Governor Hochul’s 2022 State of the State commitment to better connect farms and schools across New York, the program has seen increased participation from school food authorities, with a total of 59 school food authorities approved to receive enhanced reimbursement during this school year, up from 51 approved for reimbursement last year. In total, more than $8 million was spent on New York agricultural products during the 2022-2023 school year by schools applying for the incentive.

Further supporting these programs, Governor Hochul’s 2024 State of the State laid out a plan for New York’s agricultural industry to become stronger, more resilient, and proactive against future threats spanning the health, environment, labor, and education industries. The Governor announced several major proposals to provide a boost to New York’s dairy and agricultural industries, workforce development programs, and youth leadership and education opportunities, including plans of cross-cutting initiatives that will strengthen the industry and promote a more resilient future for our agriculture, food, and forestry sectors.

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