On October 28th, SOFSA joined Brady Farm, the Syracuse University Community Geography department and Farm to Fork 101 — as well as several classes of awesome third and fourth graders — at McKinley Brighton elementary school. This event kicked off an exciting new partnership between these partners and the Syracuse City School District (SCSD) that will pilot Farm-to-School programming at McKinley Brighton.

After a warm welcome from McKinley Brighton students carrying a beautiful handmade sign, the event began with a short press conference. We were lucky enough to be joined by Superintendent Jaime Alicea in addition to representatives from our partner organizations.

Maura Ackerman, Facilitator for SOFSA, introduced the pilot program and welcomed Superintendent Alicea to the stage. The Superintendent shared his excitement and enthusiasm and got the students jazzed about the roasted vegetables they were about to eat for lunch. He then passed the mic to Rachel Murphy, Director of Syracuse City School District Food and Nutrition Services. She shared a little bit about how feeding students works and gave some details about why this is such an exciting pilot program. Finally, Rachel handed it off to Jessi Lyons, Farm Coordinator at Brady Faith Farms. Jessi introduced the students to the idea of an urban farm and showed off some of the beautiful produce that was used to make the roasted vegetables.

Lunch tray with a grilled cheese, tomato soup, applesauce and the medley of roasted vegetables.
Students enjoyed a roasted butternut squash, potatoes, carrots and two types of beets in addition to their normal lunch fare.

With some excitement and interest generated around butternut squash and golden beets, the students were dismissed from the assembly to get their lunches and head back up to their classrooms. Superintended Alicea joined Principal Eric Patterson on the lunch line where they served up roasted red and golden beets, potatoes, carrots and butternut squash from Brady Farm and Common Thread Farm alongside SCSD school chefs. 

Lunch in hand, the students returned to their classrooms where individuals from the various partner organizations lead an interactive lesson about the food that the students were eating and where it came from. Students enthusiastically pondered the origin of their veggies and shared their opinions on golden beets versus red beets. “Farmer” Jessi was able to visit each classroom and give a some more background information on urban farming; many of the students live in the neighborhood and recognized Brady Farm as a neighborhood landmark. 

We are so grateful to all of the partners involved in this venture, as well as the SCSD administrators, students and teachers who participated in this event. The enthusiasm and curiosity that the students brought matched the excitement that we feel about this pilot program. Check below to see some of the news coverage of this event: