Our state's tomatoes are nationally recognized as being among the best in the world. To pay homage to the great work being done in our state and to promote local agriculture, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture honors those who have excelled in providing Jersey Fresh produce to school children in our state. They are the Top Tomatoes in the Jersey Fresh Farm to School Program!
The Princeton School Gardens Cooperative, a 501c3, works in Princeton Public Schools to increase food literacy and to institutionalize the use of food and agriculture as tools of academic exploration. The co-founders, Dorothy Mullen, Diane Hackett, Fran McManus and Karla Cook, began their work together in 2005 by establishing edible gardens at all of the district’s six campuses and enlisting parents in the work and support. They then raised money to pay garden educators for the four K-5 schools. The founders leveraged the success of the edible gardens to obtain a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the 2009 creation of Garden State on Your Plate, a now-beloved program for K-5 grades, (now expanding to the middle school) that brings chefs, farmers and parents into school cafeterias at lunchtime to serve up samples of simple dishes starring locally grown ingredients and products. At the middle school, the group built a case for an after-school seed-to-table program in the John Witherspoon Teaching Kitchens, which had been little used since the old home-economics program had been cancelled. The nonprofit’s years of service to the school and building community around food-related issues helped open the door to a new partnership with the school food service provider, the NJ-based Nutri-Serve Food Management, to create a plant-rich pilot menu now under way at the middle school.