Local Food Procurement is Back
With the winter behind us local food procurement is back and we could not be more excited! Throughout the year, United Way of Passaic County has been working closely with the Paterson Public School District in increasing the availability of locally sourced foods in Paterson. Now with summer fast approaching there are oodles of opportunities for Paterson students to sample some of the best New Jersey has to offer! Since the New Jersey harvest kicked off in April, Paterson Public Schools under our guidance has procured a range of Jersey Fresh items including swiss chard, spinach, and kale. We were especially happy last month to bring in Jersey Fresh collard greens given the cultural relevance they have for many Paterson students. With June around the corner we are excited by the prospect of using remaining funds from the district’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), which expire at the end of the school year, to push beyond leafy greens. Currently, we are looking at bringing in Jersey Fresh berries, which, anecdotally at least, is a kid favorite! We are also working with the school district in finding other uses for surplus FFVP funds, including to purchase mobile salad bars for the district. Such purchases will make it easier to store, present, and ultimately serve the produce made available through the program.
We would say we have met our goal for this year of normalizing the procurement of local fruits and vegetables, and we would love to see this pattern continue for next year. One goal for next year as well is to push for more hyperlocal procurement from growers based in our urbanized stretch of northern New Jersey. Some of this procurement can certainly come from existing urban farms like AeroFarms in Newark. We also, however, see a potential for schools themselves to meet some of that need. With Paterson’s growing push for green schoolyards, now seems like a historic opportunity to expand the reach of edible gardens in Paterson schools. Regardless, we are looking forward to continue the progress of this year and seeing more fresh and wholesome food getting to the schools where it’s needed most!
About the Grantee
United Way of Passaic County is an organization committed to mobilizing the caring power of the communities it serves to tackle chronic issues, such as hunger and financial illiteracy. It is also involved in helping public schools with their food procurement to ensure kids have access to food that is safe, nutritious, and locally sourced.