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Local farms benefiting from tangled national supply chain

LynOaken Farms
Ashley Hirtzel
LynOaken Farms in Lyndonville is among the local growers supplying schools.

Schools with long ties to New York's farms are benefiting, as the tangle in America's supply chain continues.

School districts thought they only had to worry about getting the kids up to speed in class after more than a year of remote learning. Now the issue is getting food for the steam tables in their cafeterias.

School systems of all sizes are having trouble getting food onto the tables in cafeterias and experiencing shortages in everything from chicken to fruit. In Western New York that means districts are often relying on the farms across the region, which have seen shrinking ranks in recent decades.

Niagara Falls has a program providing fruits and veggies to kids in the afternoons. Schools Superintendent Mark Laurrie said It requires a truck driver who makes 55 stops on his distribution route and doesn't always get there on time.

"We've had a really aggressive program of snacks during the day, to the point where we've eliminating anything coming from the outside, so we can have a little bit better control over what kids eat during the day and it is the major source of fruits and vegetables that we know that can be given to kids 180 times a year and the kids are actually enjoying them and asking for them," Laurrie said.

Hamburg Schools Superintendent Michael Cornell said his district also benefits from long-time farm-to-table connections.

"We source locally a significant percentage of our meat, produce and other products, juices. So, fortunately, because we source a lot of our food from farms that are right close to us and even farms like in Lyndonville, LynOaken Farms, we've been very fortunate to not have any disruptions in our food service supply chain," Cornell said.

State Sen. George Borrello has 48 school districts and also BOCES districts in his Senate district. He said they are rely on the farms that roll across the hills of the Southern Tier.

"Fruits and vegetables aren't subject to the same type of restrictions that, say, meats are. So it's easier for those schools to work with local produce suppliers, growers, and it's really been a great fit and, also, it's very beneficial from a nutrition standpoint and from an economic standpoint," Borrello said.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.