Baker-Polito Administration Celebrates Massachusetts Farm-to-School Month
BOSTON – October 26, 2016 – The Baker-Polito Administration today celebrated October as “Massachusetts Farm-to-School Month,” by inviting students, teachers and farm-to-school champions to the State House. The gathering also provided the Administration with the opportunity to commend the Massachusetts public schools participating in farm-to-school programs.
“Massachusetts Farm-to-School Month is a great opportunity to thank and recognize all school food service staff, as well as the farms that grow high-quality food for our students to enjoy throughout the school year,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration is committed to supporting our local agricultural industry, as well as increasing access to fresh, healthy food for all Massachusetts residents.”
“Farm-to-school efforts support improved nutrition and academic achievement for students, and provide potential markets for local farmers,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “These programs enrich children’s experience and connection to their communities through locally-produced, fresh food.”
Recently passed legislation designates each October as Massachusetts Farm-to-School Month to coincide with National Farm to School Month in recognition of the vital role agriculture plays in the culture, heritage and economy of the Commonwealth. Additionally, the month serves as an opportunity to commend the farm-to-school programs which support improved nutrition and academic achievement among the student population and represent potential markets for local farmers, growers, and food producers in school settings.
“Bringing locally sourced food and agriculture education to schools is a great way to empower children and their families to make informed food choices,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “We commend the Massachusetts Farm-to-School Program for strengthening the collaborative effort among the schools and farms across the Commonwealth.”
According to the 2015 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm-to-School Census, approximately 828 Massachusetts schools with an estimated 422,072 students participate in farm to school programs. Last year, Massachusetts school districts invested $10,262,200 in local food, with the average school district spending 21 percent of their budget on local products. Approximately 114 farms across the state provide food to school cafeterias.
“Increasing the amount of locally grown food in school meals is a win for both students and Massachusetts farmers,” said Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) Commissioner John Lebeaux. “School food service directors can improve the nutritional value and taste of school meals while also supporting the local economy.”
“I’m grateful to all the farmers and the school nutrition workers who have worked so well together for the benefit of Massachusetts students,” said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. “It’s a pleasure to see the fresh and healthy offerings available in so many schools.”
There are 7,755 farms in Massachusetts working on over 523,000 acres to produce $492 million in agricultural products. The average farm produces $63,470 of agricultural products on just 68 acres. Massachusetts farms provide employment to nearly 28,000 workers in the Commonwealth. While nationally the U.S. witnessed a decline in agriculture from 2007 to 2012, Massachusetts was one of the few states that experienced a 1 percent growth in both number of farms and acres in farmland.
“This has been a wonderful opportunity to work with students from Martha’s Vineyard and across the Commonwealth to recognize and promote the importance of locally grown food and farm to school programs,” said State Representative Timothy Madden (D-Nantucket). “The students have been there every step of the way, from proposing the idea and testifying, to being part of the bill signing. They were able to see their efforts come to fruition, which speaks highly of the students and highly of the legislative process. It’s been terrific working with everyone involved and I thank the students, teachers, community members, legislature and Governor for their continuous advocacy and support.”
“We are grateful to Governor Baker and Representative Madden for recognizing the importance of healthy, locally grown food in school meals, garden-based learning, and food education for all of the children in the Commonwealth,” said Island Grown Schools Program Leader Noli Taylor. “We are excited to continue working with students and partners in the State House to continue building support for farm to school programs in the years to come.”