Assessing Potential for Scaling Up Farm to Cafeteria in Saratoga and Washington counties in New York State

Worksite Location
Saratoga County
Faculty Sponsor
Jennifer L. Wilkins
Other Campus-Based Mentors/Supervisors
Tracy Farrell
Field Mentors/Supervisors
Diane Whitten
Project Summary and Intended Outcomes

Interest in farm to cafeteria programs, where local farm products are served in schools and colleges, has increased over the past decade. Such programs provide environmental change by enhancing the quality of cafeteria meals, revealing local food and agriculture systems to students, and diversifying markets for area farmers. Despite these and other apparent benefits, small and mid-size farms remain largely unengaged in farm to cafeteria in New York and food service dining directors have difficulty accessing local foods in sufficient quantity and variety needed to plan menus throughout the year. This project addresses these gaps in uptake of farm to cafeteria through three integrated components: 1) A follow up needs assessment of school food service directors in Saratoga and Washington Counties and initiation of a needs assessment at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs. This will build on a prior needs assessment conducted in 2010 and will include interest and experiences with using local foods in cafeteria meals and other activities associated with farm to cafeteria programs, such as planting a school garden and/or classroom food, student-run farms and nutrition education. This will also allow for identification of changes in farm to cafeteria practices over the past four years in area public schools. By expanding to Skidmore College where some local foods are purchased, the products purchased and delivery practices may inform potential for farm to cafeteria more broadly; 2) A needs assessment of farmers and distributors in the region to determine requirements related to price, delivery and payment schedules in order to make selling to schools and colleges pay off will provide valuable feedback to the food service and dining directors; 3) In-person interviews with key stakeholders as identified by campus and county-based mentors/supervisors to better understand the barriers to and opportunities for making and farm to cafeteria successful in Saratoga County and Washington counties.

Roles and Responsibilities

The intern's role and responsibilities will include: 1) schedule and conduct interviews with food service and dining directors, farmers and other stakeholders as identified by campus and county-based mentors/supervisors; 2) assist with interview guide preparation; 3) manage data collection and storage; 4) assist with data analysis including comparison of needs assessment results with 2010 data.

Qualifications and Previous Coursework

- Must be a full time CHE freshman, sophomore or junior. Graduating seniors are not eligible. Must meet NYS Department of Motor Vehicle requirement, if applicable.
- Previous course work in nutrition, food service management and food systems is a plus

Benefits and Skills

The intern will gain:
- understanding of the Farm to School initiative from background reading, past research, and direct interviews with farmers and food service directors.
- experience in preparing research instruments and implementing field research, including interviewing skills and maintaining confidentiality.
- understanding of how NYS agriculture and school nutrition could benefit from successful farm to cafeteria programs.