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.»

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.»