Education Feature Stories

Academy360 Awarded “Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award”

From left, NJDA Farm to School Coordinator Erin Maguire, Academy360 Executive Chef Michael Matthews, Spectrum360’s Carol Minardi, and Academy360 Principal Lynn Muir (Photo provided).

(LIVINGSTON) – The New Jersey Department of Agriculture today presented Academy360 in Livingston with the “Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award” for its Culinary Academy360 and gardening program.

The presentation kicked off the celebration of the 10th annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week being held September 21-25.

Academy360 is a program of the NJ nonprofit Spectrum360, which serves children and adults with autism and other related disabilities.

“It is great to see Farm to School used to expand horizons by using local produce in the teaching kitchen and for growing plants in the greenhouse,” NJDA Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher said. “Academy360 uses Farm to School as a therapy and skills tool for students with special needs.”

Academy360 Executive Chef Michael Matthews and  school Principal Lynn Muir were on hand to accept the award.

“We try to teach our students the full circle of food from seed to harvest to the kitchen and finally the table,” Matthews said. “We have a greenhouse on campus that we can take full advantage of, for items such as herbs, assorted greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc., depending on the season, of course.”

When the COVID-19 Pandemic began last March, Matthews continued to teach by using Google Classroom. He decided the theme for the cooking classes for each week, and he and the students prepared the dishes.

Critical lessons such as culinary math, culinary science, weights, measure, food safety, kitchen safety, proper personal hygiene, world geography, appropriate cutlery skills, time, and temperature were reinforced while creating the dishes.

To support families and provide further enrichment to the Spectrum360 community, Matthews also led an after-school virtual cooking class for all family, staff, and students, which allowed them to explore everything from cake decorating to barbeque preparations.

In addition to the award presented to Academy360, 23 schools are being recognized for their Farm to School efforts in the 2019-20 school year. To enter the competition, schools had to showcase how their work with farmers and the community ensures that students have access to healthy fruits and vegetables in their school cafeterias and classrooms.

Due to unforeseen circumstances and school closures last school year, schools had to react quickly and creatively with their meals. Many schools provided a variety of fresh produce in their grab and go meals with funding from the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable (FFVP) and Department of Defense (DoDFresh) Programs.

Other 2019-2020 School Year applicants were:

  • Absegami High School, Galloway
  • Bridgeton High School, Bridgeton
  • Broad Street School, Bridgeton
  • Buckshutem Road School, Bridgeton
  • Central Jersey College Prep Charter School, Somerset
  • Cherry Street School, Bridgeton
  • Donald M. Payne Sr. School of Technology, Newark
  • Essex County – West Caldwell Tech, West Caldwell
  • Geraldyn O Foster Early Childhood Center, Bridgeton
  • Hamburg Elementary School, Hamburg
  • High Bridge Elementary, High Bridge
  • Indian Avenue School, Bridgeton
  • John P. Stevens High School, Edison
  • Juan Pablo Duarte – Jose Julian Marti School 28, Elizabeth
  • Mount Olive Township School District, Budd Lake
  • Nicholas LaCorte School # 3, Elizabeth
  • Paul Robeson Charter School, Trenton
  • Plainfield Schools, Plainfield
  • Quarter Mile Lane, Bridgeton
  • Red Bank Primary School, Red Bank
  • Somerset Intermediate School, North Plainfield
  • West Avenue School, Bridgeton

These schools received Jersey Fresh Farm to School promotional materials kits including Jersey Fresh Farm to School masks, banner, stickers, and seasonality charts.

All Schools who submit an application and meet the criteria are added to our list of School Recognition Program Schools. To see all Recognition Program Schools and Farms, check our program map.

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.  

The influence of the Farm to School Program led to more than 250 schools purchasing local produce from their main distributor, more than 200 districts buying local produce directly from farms and using a curriculum that ties cafeteria meals to healthy eating education and more than 100 districts organizing field trips to farms.

For more information, click here.

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N.J. Dept. of Agriculture Provides Instructions & Information When Encountering Spotted Lanternfly

On August 12, 2020, New Jersey Department of Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher announced information and instructions for residents who encounter the Spotted Lanternfly as the Department continues to receive numerous calls about this exotic invasive insect.

The Department is partnering with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS) to curb the on-going spread of the Spotted Lanternfly.

“We have been working diligently to slow the advance of this bug,” Secretary Fisher said. “We are targeting areas where severe infestations have been confirmed, and we also encourage residents to destroy the Spotted Lanternfly if possible when they see it. It will take a combined effort to help keep this pest from spreading.”

While the Spotted Lanternfly is no threat to humans or animals, it is known to feed on 70 different types of plants and trees. It is native to China and South Korea, but arrived in the U.S. in Berks County, Pa., on a shipment in 2014. The species has been advancing ever since, causing Pennsylvania to have 26 counties currently under quarantine.

The New Jersey counties under quarantine are Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem and Somerset. The Spotted Lanternfly is a plant hopper and can only fly short distances. However, it is an excellent hitchhiker and has been known to ride on any kind of transportation. The Department asks that anyone who travels in a quarantined county do a quick inspection of their vehicle for the Spotted Lanternfly before leaving.

The New Jersey Department of Agriculture and USDA-APHIS have several crews throughout the state that are working to treat areas where infestations have been reported. Those crews may seek permission to come on to a property where large infestations exist. They will have proper identification and follow proper safety protocols. The crews will need to check only the specific areas outdoors where the Spotted Lanternfly has been found.

Treatments will only occur on the Tree of Heaven, which the Spotted Lanternfly prefers and is believed to need to reproduce.

Since surveys and treatments for the Spotted Lanternfly in New Jersey began in 2018, there have been more than 200,000 Trees of Heaven treated on almost 19,000 acres.

“NJDA and USDA crews have worked to control the spread of this invasive pest,” NJDA Plant Industry Division Director Joe Zoltowski said. “Its ability to travel easily on any mode of transportation has allowed it to spread. We are asking residents to do their part by eliminating this bug whenever possible.”

If a resident has an infestation and would like to treat their own property, consult the graphic below for a list of options:

Using items such as sticky traps are not recommended as they may harm other wildlife.

While the Spotted Lanternfly is currently in its full adult stage, it will begin laying egg masses in early to mid-September. The gray looking egg masses can be scraped off, double bagged and then thrown away.

The egg masses can also be placed into alcohol, bleach or hand sanitizer to kill them.

Residents outside of the quarantine counties can report the exact address of sightings of the Spotted Lanternfly by calling 609-406-6943 or by emailing: or

Watch an instructional video on how to destroy the egg masses:

Education Feature Stories News Recent News

N.J. Dept. of Agriculture Announces 144 Schools Offering Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program

Pictured from left are: Jerome Dunn School No. 9 Principal Yalitza Torres, NJDA Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program Coordinator Janet Celi, NJDA Secretary Douglas Fisher, NJDA Food and Nutrition Division Director Rose Tricario, Jerome Dunn Academy No. 9 Physical Education Teacher Lacey Mc Conkey and USDA Acting Branch Chief for School Nutrition Programs Monique Feeney. (Image provided)

As part of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s continuing efforts to improve nutritional opportunities for school children, New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher announced on November 2, 2018 that 144 New Jersey schools are participating in the 2018-2019 school year’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP).

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has allocated $4,012,960 for New Jersey for this school year’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which provides fresh produce to more than 73,000 students in 13 counties during the school day. The students also will receive nutrition education.

The goal of the program is to introduce children to healthy foods, increase their fruit and vegetable consumption, and encourage improved lifelong dietary habits.

“We have seen first-hand the excitement that the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program creates for students,” Secretary Fisher said. “It encourages students to try new offerings with their friends and that makes it more likely they will ask for these items at home. It’s a great avenue for students to develop healthy eating habits that will benefit them long into the future.”

Additional funds will be allocated to schools for connecting their FFVP with the Farm to School Program. The schools must provide Jersey Fresh produce a minimum of two days each month from September to November and from April to June and must verify where the produce was grown.

Seventy-nine percent of the 144 schools have agreed to link their FFVP and Farm to School Program.

Some of the criteria used in selecting the schools to participate in FFVP include: Elementary schools with 50 percent or more of their students eligible for free or reduced price meals; schools that planned to purchase locally grown fruits and vegetables as much as possible; all students having access to the produce offered; and plans to partner with outside organizations to enhance nutrition education.

Schools from Camden County are:

  • Cooper’s Poynt Family School, Camden
  • Cramer Hill Mastery School, Camden
  • Dr. Henry H. Davis Family School, Camden
  • Early Childhood Development Center, Camden
  • Forest Hill School, Camden
  • H.B. Wilson Family School, Camden
  • Henry L. Bonsall Annex Preschool, Camden
  • Mastery McGraw Charter School, Camden
  • Mastery Molina Charter School Lower, Camden
  • Riletta Twyne Cream Family School, Camden
  • Thomas H. Dudley Family School, Camden
  • Veterans Memorial Family School, Camden
  • Wiggins College Prep School, Camden
  • Yorkship Family School, Camden
  • KATZ Dalsey Charter School-Rosedale, Camden’s Promise
  • Holy Name School, Camden
  • KIPP Lanning Square Primary School, Camden
  • Lindenwold School #4, Lindenwold

Click here for all of the schools that are participating in the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program for the 2018-2019 school year.

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