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September 28, 2023 
PO Box 330
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0330                     

Jeff Wolfe
P: (609) 913-6559
C: (609) 433-1785


Joseph F. Cappello School Recognized for Connecting Students with Local Produce

(TRENTON) – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture today presented Joseph F. Cappello School in Mercer County with the “Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award” during a visit to the school’s garden and cafeteria. The presentation took place during the celebration of the 13th annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week and initial Ag Literacy Week being held September 25-29.

“Joseph Cappello School’s ability to develop an inclusive school garden is a tribute to their commitment to the Farm to School Program,” NJDA Assistant Secretary of Agriculture Joe Atchison III said. “Their efforts to incorporate what is grown in the garden into their school meals, donate produce to a local organization, and include agriculture in their curriculum makes them truly deserving of this award.”

Principal Clara Bigos and students from the school’s Green Team were on hand to accept the award and share their successes in school garden Thursday morning.

“I’m very proud of our Green Team for not only establishing a successful garden, but for leading by example and showing our students the true value of collaboration and trust when working as a team,” Principal Bigos said.

The school created a garden with wheelchair accessibility, to enable students of all abilities to participate. The school has also implemented teaching students wellness and healthy living as well as providing opportunities for teaching responsibility, ownership, teamwork, and community through the New Jersey Student Learning Standards for Climate Change education.

After planting seedlings, students transplanted the plants into garden beds and raised garden beds. The school also established a “Green Team,” which is comprised of various school members that meet and collaborate on ideas and lead the care, organization and needs of the garden. Throughout the Extended School Year summer program, the garden served as a living laboratory where students practiced ownership, collaboration, and responsibility.

With the cooperation of cafeteria staff, students used produce for “Farm to Table” to sample and incorporate healthy foods into their lunches. Classes also utilized the Jersey Fresh website to practice following recipes, while incorporating produce, specifically making zucchini muffins to share with the school community.  After the extended school year program ended in mid-August, extra produce was donated to the Visitation Home in Hamilton, N.J., which serves as a day program for adults with special needs. 

New Jersey schools that entered the Farm to School Recognition Program for the current school year were required to show evidence of working with farmers and the community to ensure students have access to healthy Jersey Fresh fruits and vegetables in their school cafeterias and classrooms. School gardens are an integral part of Farm to School activities and provide hands-on education for students to connect to the state’s agricultural history and learn healthy, lifelong eating habits.

Joining Joseph F. Cappello as Farm to School Recognition Program Schools are:

  • Henry P. Becton Regional High School
  • Hopewell Valley School District
  • Linden Public School District
  • North Dover Elementary - Dover Public School District
  • Rahway Public School District
  • Springfield School District
  • Summit School District
  • Union Public School District
  • Washington School - Nutley Public School District


Schools will receive Jersey Fresh Farm to School promotional materials kits including a Jersey Fresh Farm to School banner, aprons, taste test stickers, Jersey Tastes posters and seasonality charts.

Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week was designated as the last week of each September by a law signed in 2010. During this week, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture showcases schools that connect with New Jersey farmers to purchase local produce for school meals to increase student consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.  

Farm to School activities can include, but are not exclusive to: 

  • Nutrition education, including taste tests with produce purchased from local farms.
  • Harvest meals serving locally sourced products from New Jersey farms.
  • Farm to School curricular tie-ins that connect the cafeteria to the classroom or school garden.
  • Visits to or from local farms that teach students how food is grown.
  • School garden education that ties directly into what is already being taught in the classroom.

The influence of the Farm to School Program has led to almost 500 schools purchasing local. More than 300 of the districts buying local have implemented cafeteria programs using Harvest of the Month promotional material to highlight the nutritional value of local items. Nearly 200 districts use a curriculum that ties cafeteria meals to healthy eating education and/or field trips to farms.

To learn more, visit

New Jersey Agricultural Literacy Week was established for the purpose of highlighting the importance of New Jersey agriculture, how the state’s agricultural products provide the necessary ingredients for meals, and the health value of eating fresh farm foods and locally grown produce and fruits for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.


To learn more about the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, find us on Facebook at and or Twitter @NJDA and @JerseyFreshNJDA.