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Red Hook Central School District Achieves 30% NYS Initiative

The Red Hook Central School District is among the first school districts in the Hudson Valley to achieve the 30% NYS Initiative, a legislative program to encourage school districts to include at least 30% eligible New York produced and processed products in their lunches.  NYS Produce

Food Service Director Larry Anthony has spent years building relationships with local producers and creating new foods for the school lunch menus. Those investments resulted in students having access to meals featuring Hudson Valley Fresh milk from a cooperative of local dairy farms in Dutchess, Ulster and Columbia Counties; eggs from Feather Ridge Farm in Elizaville; Issa’s Pita Chips from Buffalo; beef products like burger patties or hot dogs from Smith Packing in Utica; and a wide variety of fresh produce from farms around the Hudson Valley. 

While these items were regularly incorporated into the menu, last year a monthly “NY Thursday” lunch was offered that highlighted local producers and often featured new foods, like a roast beef sandwich with NYS roast beef from Slate Foods and bread from Our Daily Bread in Chatham, made with New York State flour. 

“Procuring New York items has generated a lot of excitement within our food service staff, which ripples out to our students. Our salad bars are seeing an increase in participation. The visual appeal has increased, and the freshness and shelf life of these items are incredible,” Anthony said.

Colloquially known as “the 30%”, this legislation incentivizes New York State school districts to include foods grown and harvested in New York State on their school lunch menus. When a school district achieves 30 percent, the following year they receive a reimbursement of $0.25 per lunch from New York State, up from $0.06 per lunch. The 2022-23 school year was the fifth year of the initiative, and over 60 school districts across the state have successfully met the requirements. In the 2022-23 school year, Red Hook joined fellow Hudson Valley school districts in Pawling, Livingston Manor, and Middletown in meeting the 30% NYS Initiative expectations.

Farm-to-school programs such as this support farms and producers in the Hudson Valley and New York State, and bring fresh, nutritious food to all students eating school meals. Anthony plans to expand the district’s farm-to-school work in the 2023-24 school year by continuing his local procurement efforts, working toward the 30% in the other districts he oversees - Rhinebeck and Pine Plains, and continuing to partner with the Harvest NY Regional Farm to School Coordinator through the Cornell Cooperative Extension.

“We are incredibly fortunate to be working with an extremely dedicated staff and having the support of our Administration. Our cooks and Food Service staff have been doing a phenomenal job at preparing and serving our local products to our students and staff. These are exciting times as we have been able to introduce and secure more local items for the upcoming school year. Collectively, we have a lot to be proud of,” he said.