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Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the Grape-to-School pilot program yesterday, a brand new Farm-to-School effort that introduces students to New York-grown Concord grape juice in participating school districts and BOCES programs. Through the end of the school year, 10 districts will serve NYS Grown & Certified Concord grape juice on their menus. In addition, the participating districts will provide educational activities and taste tests to promote New York agriculture and expand locally sourced products on school menus.

"This first-of-its-kind program will not only bring nutritious, locally grown Concord grapes to schoolchildren across the state, but will provide educational opportunities that allow them to learn more about New York's agricultural industries," Cuomo said. "With this initiative, we are continuing our commitment to bringing nutritious menu items to schools in every corner of the state, and supporting our local farmers and growers as they work to provide the highest quality products around."

Earlier yesterday, Farm-to-School partners celebrated the new pilot program at Armor Elementary School in Hamburg as part of the NY Thursdays local lunch program. The students, grades K-5, enjoyed a 100% locally-sourced meal, including NYS Grown & Certified Concord grape juice cups provided by New York Juice Company, NYS Grown & Certified beef hot dogs from Slate Foods, Marquart Farms' New York chips, Bandit Beans from the Genesee Valley Bean Company, and NYS Grown & Certified milk from Upstate Farms.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets is working in partnership with American Farmland Trust, through New York State's collaborative Farm-to-Institution initiative, on the pilot program. Westfield Maid Cooperative and Long Island-based beverage manufacturer, New York Juice Company, partnered to produce and package the cups filled with Concord grape juice.

The districts taking part in the Grape-to-School pilot program include:
  • Beacon Central School District, City of Beacon, Dutchess County
  • Buffalo Public Schools, City of Buffalo, Erie County
  • Hamburg Central School District, Town of Hamburg, Erie County
  • Maine Endwell Central School District, Broome County
  • Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES, Oneida, Herkimer, and Madison counties
  • The Renaissance Charter School, Queens
  • Schoharie Central School District Town of Schoharie, Schoharie County
  • Sidney Central School District, Town of Sidney, Delaware County
  • Whitesboro Central School District, Village of Whitesboro, Oneida County
  • Windsor Central School District, Town of Windsor, Broome County

New York Juice Company and Westfield Maid, New York State's first NYS Grown & Certified juice processor, are supplying more than 65 additional districts across the state with the juice cups, which contain Concord grape juice. The juice purchases help schools meet a goal of purchasing 30% of their food from local sources so they can qualify for higher school lunch reimbursement rates.

The four-ounce juice cups are filled with a new "Growing Grape" flavor. The NYS Grown & Certified seal, displayed prominently on each cup, lets consumers know that the juice is made from grapes grown by New York farmers who are committed to meeting high food safety standards and demonstrating environmental stewardship.

American Farmland Trust New York State Deputy Director Erica Goodman said, "American Farmland Trust is excited to partner with the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets to bring Concord grape juice to our state's K-12 schools, opening a new market for New York's grape growers. Helping to educate schools and empower them to introduce more food grown in New York is a great example of how keeping food dollars in the local economy can support New York farmers."

The Grape-to-School pilot program builds on the State's Farm-to-School program, the Governor's No Child Goes Hungry Initiative and ongoing efforts, like Taste NY and NYS Grown & Certified, that promote the purchase of local foods and beverages throughout New York State.

The program also delivers on the goals outlined at the State's Concord Grape Summit in 2018 by expanding new markets for New York's Concord grape industry and promoting innovative new Concord grape products. Several innovative actions, including these new marketing efforts, were announced as a result of the summit to increase opportunities for farms and businesses in this agricultural sector. Many of these initiatives have been completed, including supporting a Vine Certification Program to ensure disease-free planting stock; supporting new food science research and development of new products using Concords; hosting workshops on export opportunities and increasing grape industry representation at domestic and international trade shows; and showcasing Concord grapes at Taste NY Welcome Centers and at the Great New York State Fair.

New York State is the nation's second largest Concord grape producer, with approximately 30,000 acres of grape vineyards located along the belt. The majority, more than 18,000 acres, are in New York State. The Concord variety is used in the production of many value-added products, including grape juice, jellies and marmalades, and wine.

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