Farm to School Pilot a Clear Success with 1.1 Million Servings of Local Foods Provided

Legislators Consider a Major Funding Increase for Successful Program

June 18, 2013 – From home-grown beef to Oregon-caught shrimp, and from fresh apples to frozen berries, Oregon’s Farm to School and School Garden pilot program has been a great success. 

The Oregon Legislature voted unanimously to create the program in 2011 to support student nutrition while supporting the local agricultural economy. The pilot has been running since January 2013, and the eleven participating school districts are expected to fully expend the $189,140 in available funds by later this month. “Kids, farmers, ranchers, fishers, and processors from all corners of the state benefitted from the Farm to School pilot program, and they all hope it will continue,” says Kasandra Griffin, Policy Manager for Upstream Public Health.
Some of the grant funds are for “food, garden, and agriculture-based education,” but the majority of the funds are for purchasing local foods. At the designated rate of 15 cents per student per  lunch, over 1.1 million school lunches will have been served with an extra dose of local deliciousness this year.
Stories from the districts show the many ways that the program has made an impact. Joseph Charter School, in the far northeastern corner of Oregon, used their grant to expand their purchase of local beef from Fluit Farms of Joseph, and to start buying apples from Thomas Orchards in Kimberly, rolled oats and whole wheat from Greenwillow Grains in Brownsville, and cherries from Muirhead Canning in The Dalles.
According to Liza Butts, a middle school teacher and the grants coordinator, “Being able to support our local economy and state is important to us, and we hope to continue to forge more relationships with local producers and vendors. It makes a difference in the quality of the food served. It makes the staff and students feel proud of what their school and community is doing to  promote healthy and sustainable food choices.”The much larger Bend – La Pine School District used their grant funds to buy over 6,000 pounds of Oregon-caught and processed seafood from Bornstein Seafoods of Astoria. After several months of serving fish and shrimp from the Oregon coast, they used some of the “education” funds from their grant to bring coastal fishermen to the classroom. “Boat to School Day was amazing” says Bend – La Pine Wellness Specialist Katrina Weist, “It was a fun day that I am sure will be remembered by all.”
In many of the districts, the “education” portion of the grant funding was spent on school gardens. The Roseburg school district created a brand-new garden space and program, buying 10 yards of soil, shovels, gloves and other supplies. “Oh, the delight of fifth graders growing and tasting radishes for the first time!” exclaims Kris Parker, Roseburg’s Nutrition Services Director. As the 2013 pilot grant program wraps up, Farm to School advocates have their sights set high –they are hoping to expand from the small test pilot to a major program that could impact as many as 20% of all Oregon school lunches. 
House Bill 2649, which proposes an expansion to $5,000,000 for the biennium, passed unanimously through the House Agriculture committee in March of 2013. After that, it was assigned to the Ways and Means committee, where it still waits for consideration.
Representative Brian Clem of Salem, the chief sponsor of the bill, says citizens will make the difference now.
“Farm to school works. The pilot has been a success and we need to fully fund the program. I urge everyone to contact their legislator and encourage them to support a modest funding package that will ensure Oregon’s farmers are feeding Oregon’s children.”
While this decision is up to our elected state legislators, advocates of Farm to School are spreading the news about how kids and farmers and benefitting all across Oregon.
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