PORT JERVIS—The school districts of Port Jervis and Newburgh are the new beneficiaries of an annual $250,000 grant by the New York State Department of Health, Orange County executive Steve Neuhaus announced Monday.
The money, which will total $1.25 million over a five-year period, will be put towards “increasing access to healthy affordable foods, while increasing opportunities for physical activities”, according to the county executive’s press release.
That means linking schools and local stores to farms and increasing the number of farmer’s markets, as well as making streets more walkable by improving lighting and safety.
It will also go towards hiring two coordinators—one in the schools and one in the community—to promote exercise and affordable, nutritious food in the districts.
The money is going towards a larger initiative called the Healthy Orange Schools and Communities (HOSC). HOSC was started in December 2014 by the Orange County Department of Health and Planning Departments to foster sustainable policy, system, and environmental changes in the Newburgh and Port Jervis school districts.
Newburgh was top on the New York State Department of Health’s list of at-risk schools in the county, which also included Port Jervis and Middletown. Middletown Superintendent Ken Eastwood declined to participate however, said County spokesperson Justin Rodriguez, so only Port Jervis and Newburgh will receive the funding.
Already, the HOSC received $100,000 in funding from the USDA in Nov. 2013 for a Farm to Schools program meant to connect schools with local food businesses, among other things.
The HOSC is hiring the Cornell Cooperative Extension, a non-profit that worked with HOSC on the the Farm to school program, to serve as a link between schools and communities to meet program goals.
“It is the next step in continuing the work we have done with our Farm to School Program over the past two years,” said Robert Deitrich, director of the Orange County Health Department’s Community Health Outreach.
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