Earlier this week, the Ellenville School District shared a photo that (without the classic cafeteria tray) could have been easily taken at a restaurant instead of a school lunchroom. Fresh broccoli was sitting next to chili made from bison raised in Columbia County and locally-grown beans from Ulster County... huh?

In a turn that may seem unbelievable to longtime residents, school lunches in several counties in the Hudson Valley are starting to look, well, good. It's all thanks to a program that aims to change the landscape of how local students are fed.

School lunches are looking different in Ellenville, NY with the Farm-to-School program from the Rondout Valley Growers Association
School lunches are looking different in Ellenville, NY with the Farm-to-School program from the Rondout Valley Growers Association (Ellenville Central School District)
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New School Lunches in the Hudson Valley, NY

I grew up in Ulster County, NY in the Rondout Valley school district. My cafeteria memories of pizza, French fries, and the occasional bagel pale in comparison to what's been hitting students' plates recently. You've heard of "Farm-to-Table"... now meet Farm-to-School. It's all thanks to a program from the Rondout Valley Growers Association (RVGA).

The Rondout Valley Growers Association has partnered with several Hudson Valley schools, including the Ellenville Central School District in Ellenville, NY to provide lunches to students
The Rondout Valley Growers Association has partnered with several Hudson Valley schools, including the Ellenville Central School District in Ellenville, NY to provide lunches to students (Google/RondoutValleyGrowers.org)
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Farm-to-School Program from Rondout Valley Growers Association

The RVGA aims to connect farmers and their food with the surrounding communities in the Hudson Valley. While their Farm-to-Food Pantry program brings donated farm produce to local pantries, their Farm-to-School program brings food (like the bison chili) to local students. Their mission is to not only support local food in cafeterias, but to connect students with nearby farms through field trips. From the Ellenville Central School District:

This year, Ellenville students have been enjoying the return of the Rondout Valley Growers Association's "Farm to School" program... Students [can] opt for “just a bite” samples for tasting and/or full-size portions for their lunch. Looks delicious!

Locally-sourced farm-fresh lunches are a far cry from the frozen nuggets that I was served as a student, and I couldn't be happier. Programs like the ones cultivated by the RVGA are showing how bright our future can be without looking too far... just to the farm down the road.

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Gallery Credit: Gazelle

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