Supporting School Gardens and Healthy Food Choices: Garden to Cafe NYC

by Deirdre Appel
school garden

Name: Garden to Cafe – New York City Department of Education/Office of School Food

What They Do: The Garden to Cafe program partners with schools that have access to a community or school garden to use the garden’s produce in school lunches. The program’s goals include supporting instruction on gardening and the local food system, raising awareness of the benefits of school gardening, influencing healthy food choices, and increasing student consumption of fresh and locally-grown produce.

Seasonal harvest events in May, June, October, and November allow students to taste what they have grown, with the help of the school’s Garden to Cafe coordinator.

How They Do It: The New York City Department of Education (DOE) partners with Grow to Learn NYC to identify potential Garden to Cafe schools. Schools are eligible for the program if they have an established school garden, community garden, or urban farm through which students regularly learn to garden. If they meet the eligibility requirements, schools may submit an application online.  Once accepted, each school is assigned a Garden to Cafe coordinator who provides culinary support for seasonal harvest events. 

The Garden to Café team, with support from the individual school kitchen, uses the produce grown by the school in such menu items as roasted carrots and parsnips with sweet onions and rosemary, red beet and apple salad, vegetable quesadillas, and herbed vinaigrette, giving the students a chance to taste what they have grown and learn more about the food cycle as a continuous journey.

Mission: The Garden to Cafe program aims to teach students to grow and harvest produce and to encourage healthy eating.

Latest project/campaign: NYS Farm to School Bronx Project

Major Funding: The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets and the USDA Farm to School Program have provided funding for past projects.

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Revenue: N/A

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: Close to 140 schools (over 71,000 students) are currently registered with the Garden to Cafe Program.


Location: Long Island City, New York
Core Programs: Food Education, Fruit and Vegetable Consumption, Farm to School
Number of staff: 2
Number of volunteers: N/A
Number of coworking members: N/A
Areas served: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens
Year Started: 2009
Director: Armando Taddei
Contact Information: George Edwards (

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