ITHACA, N.Y. — Children at Northeast Elementary School will have a host of fresh fruits and veggies to pick from this fall, as the school is now the sixth in the Ithaca City School District to be a part of the Fresh Snack Program.

An initiative of the Youth Farm Project, the program is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year after launching at Beverly J. Martin in 2009. Because of the program, more than 2,000 elementary school children have access to fresh snacks multiple times per week. Along the way, kids learn about new types of fruits and vegetables that are sourced as locally as possible and get a nutritional boost that helps them stay focused in school.

Katie Church, administrator of the Youth Farm Project, said in a news release that the program’s mission has always been to expand into schools with the lowest incomes. About 38% of students at Northeast Elementary School are eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Next year, the Fresh Snack Program is aiming to reach the remaining two elementary schools in the district — Fall Creek and South Hill elementary schools. But to reach the two remaining schools, the program will have to raise $23,000 to sustain the delivery of fresh snacks for three years. According to a study in 2017, about 20% of kids in Tompkins County are considered food insecure. The Fresh Snack Program is one local initiative that helps reach children that may not always have access to fresh produce.

“The Fresh Snack Program teaches meaningful skills to our youth about healthy and socially just food systems, while it fosters good eating habits, providing both short- and long-term impact for our local children,” Janet Cotraccia, chief impact officer of the Community Foundation of Tompkins County, said in a statement.

Feeding Tompkins: A collaborative eight-part series on food insecurity in Tompkins County

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Most of the funding for the Fresh Snack Program comes from support from foundations like the Community Foundation, which has provided $7,400 in grants over the past two years, a news release said.

This fall, the program will provide 4,500 fresh snacks, from strawberries to cauliflower to six elementary schools two to three times per week. In addition to the fresh produce, the program also offers nutrition classes.

Christa Nunez, manager of the Fresh Snack Program, said in a statement that they have heard a lot of positive feedback that kids love the snacks.

“We’ve received rave reviews from the kids, some of whom have never even tasted an apple before,” Nunez said. “The kids really love being able to hold an apple and eat the whole thing. And when some go out on break and are away for a few weeks, they miss it.”

The produce used in the Fresh Snack Program comes from Headwater Food Hub, a distributor in Ontario, Wayne County, that works with a network of regional farmers. They contract with GreenStar Natural Food Markets to process the food.

The Youth Farm Project and Fresh Snack Program will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a harvest festival from 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 6, at the farm at 23 Nelson Road in Danby. There will be farm activities, educational workshops and wood-fired pizzas with harvested vegetables.

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Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.