By Arriana Patraw, Community Health Improvement Coordinator
Earlier this fall, the Salmon River Central School District’s Agriculture Program was honored by the New York State School Board Association for its immensely successful Seed-to-Tray Initiative. The Heart Network extends its congratulations to all of the students and faculty members who have fostered the growth of this incredible program.
The Heart Network counts itself lucky to have played a small role in helping Michelle Oakes and her students develop the Seed-to-Tray Initiative. Through our Creating Healthy Schools & Communities (CHSC) program, which is funded by New York State, we are able to provide funding and technical support to programs that bolster physical activity and nutrition in Franklin County schools. In this instance, we didn’t have to do much: these students came up with a plan to empower their school’s nutrition program and teach current and future generations of students how to grow and use their own food — all we did was provide seed funding. (Pun very much intended.)
Salmon River’s Seed-to-Tray program shines because it’s student-driven. It allows youth to bring their personal experience with food to the classroom, where they can teach others and develop systems that benefit the entire school community. In accepting the award, Oakes noted that the program lets students “bring their knowledge of agriculture and their way of life to the classroom.” This is a powerful concept and one worth replicating across Franklin County and the North Country.
We’re also ecstatic to see how the Seed-to-Tray Initiative has evolved over time. It started with indoor grow racks and is expanding this year to include an entire greenhouse, which will increase the program’s offerings from lettuce and herbs to include a variety of vegetables — and all of this food is being used in the school’s cafeteria, saving money and helping provide healthier options. We can’t wait to see where the program goes next.