Farm-to-School Program Encourages Oregon Districts to Buy Local Foods

By Tucker, Charlotte | The Nation's Health, September 2011 | Go to article overview

Farm-to-School Program Encourages Oregon Districts to Buy Local Foods


Tucker, Charlotte, The Nation's Health


OREGON SCHOOLS will have the opportunity to compete for $200,000 allocated by the state to encourage farm-to-school and school garden projects under a bill that passed the state Legislature in the spring.

The bill seeks to keep money within the state, rather than sending it to producers outside Oregon, and to teach children about the benefits of eating local.

The pilot program was scaled down substantially from its original $2 million allocation but will still have an impact on the districts awarded the grants, said Megan Kemple, farm-to-school program coordinator at the Willamette Farm and Food Coalition in Lane County, Ore.

"I'm really excited about this funding," said Kemple, who is also the Oregon state lead for the National Farm to School Network. "The amount of funding will make a really significant difference to those small or medium-sized school districts."

The Oregon Department of Education, which will administer the grant, is expected to release a request for proposals from school districts in the fall.

Though the specific details of the funding, including amounts to be awarded to the winning districts, have not been publicly released, Kemple said there is potential for the two winning school districts to make a substantial change in their eating habits.

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Schools often want to purchase more local foods and sometimes Kemple is able to help negotiate prices that work for both farmers and school districts, but in many cases the two sides are simply too far apart, she said.

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At least two school districts will be awarded the grant money, and preference will be given to school districts that, among other things, incorporate positive changes in food purchasing and serve a high percentage of children who qualify for free or reduced price school meals.

Part of the bill's success is being credited to a health impact assessment funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts, and authored by Upstream Public Health. …

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