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New York State School Environmental Health Summit Introduces Locally Sourced Nutrition Initiatives to New York School Districts

healthy-schoolsAt a recent New York Health Summit, titled, “Is Your School, Green, Clean and Healthy?” officials from the Environmental Protection Agency spoke to attendees about the benefits of sourcing fresh foods from local farms to provide meals for students. Not only does this contribute to children’s health, but it simultaneously promotes New York’s agricultural society.

The summit took place on Tuesday, October 20, at the City Center. The event very conveniently coincides with a recent statement made by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, announcing that $350,000 is currently available for the Farm to School program, which facilitates a relationship between local food suppliers and pre-kindergarten through grade-school lunch programs.

“Why are we buying food from thousands of miles away?” EPA Region 2 Administrator Judith Enck asked at the summit. “Supporting local agriculture is not only good for kids’ health, it’s really good for local farms.”

In addition to boosting the nutrition that school cafeterias can offer to children, sourcing food locally also contributes to a larger environmental conservation effort in cutting down “food miles” and, in turn, reducing carbon emissions and air pollution that contributes to climate change.

The summit also focused on environmental conservation, and ways in which school professionals can control indoor air quality and asthma management.

For example, air pollutants can get trapped in carpets, the EPA reports. This is another health risk that schools need to be aware of, and regular carpet cleaning can help to reduce these pollutants.

Governor Cuomo announced the initiative in Rochester, where he spoke alongside local state officials and leaders organizations such as the New York Apple Association, and the New York State Vegetable Growers Association.

The funding will allow schools to facilitate key attributes of the program that will lend to its success.

“But providing funding for key projects like training and equipment, we can help strengthen our agriculture industry and build a healthier New York,” Cuomo said.

The grants will be announced in November.