Farm to school efforts in New Jersey are lead by the New Jersey Urban Ecology Program at Rutgers University. The New Jersey Urban Ecology Program is part of a partnership of several other public and private partners throughout the country that received $2 million in the year 2000 from the United States Department of Agriculture's Initiative for Future Agriculture and Food Systems (IFAFS) to participate in the a project entitled "From Farm to School: Improving School Meals and Small Farm Viability (the Farm to School Project)". By 2004, when the project entered its fourth and final year, the Farm to School Project in New Jersey had helped to build awareness of and expand farm to school at a state level.
There are three ways in which a New Jersey school can receive locally produced products: through direct marketing relationships with farmers, by requesting local produce from the school's local produce vendor, and through the State's DoD Fresh Program.
Direct marketing has a history within the state and, especially in rural areas, occasionally food service directors will purchase directly from farmers. However, what is more common is that food service directors will request local produce from their local produce vendor. In New Jersey many of the schools' produce vendors are small, local companies that have preexisting relationships with local producers and can procure seasonal local produce at competitive prices.
The most common way for schools to receive local produce is through the DoD Fresh Program. The US Commodity Supplemental Food Distribution Program (the Commodity Distribution Program) partnered with the Department of Defense in 1994 as a way to utilize the DoD's existing distribution system to bring fresh fruits and vegetables into schools. New Jersey was one of the first states to participate in this unique partnership. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture's Division of Food and Nutrition, the same program that administers the National School Lunch Program in the State, administers the successful partnership between the Commodity Distribution Program and the DoD at the state level.
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