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For immediate release: September 28, 2016
Contact: Craig Smith
Phone: 518-402-3130

Healthy Food is part of a Better Lifestyle at OCFS Juvenile Facilities

Better Menu Choices Round Out Holistic Reform for Youth in OCFS Facilities

The New York State Office of Children and Family Services helps youth in juvenile justice facilities find a better path in life than the one that brought them to the system. That includes the Better Meals Initiative, a Division of Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth program to encourage healthier lifestyles that include locally-sourced fresh fruits and vegetables, some of which are grown right at the facilities where the youth are housed.

“Many of the young people in the juvenile justice system come from backgrounds that did not include a healthy lifestyle,” said OCFS Acting Commissioner Sheila J. Poole. “Some of the youth in our care have never even tasted local fresh fruits and vegetables. Growing and harvesting their own food is an enriching experience that provides them with value for a lifetime.”

“It is fulfilling to work at the juvenile facilities to prepare scratch-based meals with local fresh ingredients,” said Chef Noah Sheetz, who was contracted to work on the agency’s nutrition program. “Better nutrition opens a whole new world for the youth and is an important element in helping them to transform from the person they were when they arrived at the facility to the person they are working to become.”

“Obesity is especially prevalent among disadvantaged youth, who make up a large proportion of the juveniles in our care,” said OCFS Registered Dietician Mary Quell. “It’s important to develop healthy eating habits at a young age. The opportunity to experience a healthy diet while in our facilities will benefit these youth for a lifetime.”
The OCFS Better Meals Initiative partners with farmers near OCFS juvenile justice facilities for a two-pronged benefit of providing healthy, locally-sourced food at an affordable price while supporting local agriculture.
The program also includes a garden program that teaches the youth how to grow their own vegetables and an after-school culinary program that provides hands-on experience and vocational skills in preparing healthy meals using fresh ingredients. These skills not only build confidence, but provide valuable training and experience in the food service industry where they can pursue employment when they leave the juvenile justice system.

About OCFS

OCFS serves New York by promoting the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, families, and communities. OCFS maintains an active social media presence. “Like” the New York State Office of Children and Family Services Facebook page and follow @NYSOCFS on Twitter in English or the Spanish-language Twitter account, @NYSOCFS en Espanol.