Farm to School
Farm to School Improves School Meals, Children’s Health, and Regional Food Economies
Can you imagine a school cafeteria where healthy, fit fourth graders come back for seconds of fresh carrots and tomatoes but leave the chips untouched? We can.
Ecotrust’s Farm to School Program, in close collaboration with a diverse coalition of partners, works to increase the variety and availability of healthy, regionally sourced foods served at school, stabilize markets for regional food producers, and give children a sense of where their food comes from. Our work focuses on projects at a range of levels — national, regional, state, and local — that are upstream, innovative, and likely to have far-reaching and long-lasting impacts.
Growing Farm to School in eight western states
The National Farm to School Network includes national staff, eight Regional Lead Agencies and leads in all 50 states in order to support local Farm to School programs. Ecotrust has served as the Western Regional Lead Agency since 2007, supporting programs in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. We provide networking opportunities and resource sharing through an online social network, Good Grub and Gardens, and help to plan the annual Farm to Cafeteria Conference. View and print a document summarizing our region here. To find out what’s happening in each state, and to find contact information for your State Lead, click on your state’s link on our Western Region page.
Sourcing local food for schools with FoodHub
FoodHub, a project of Ecotrust, is a dynamic online marketplace designed to connect wholesale buyers and sellers of regionally grown food. Our Farm to School program teaches school food service directors, farmers and food producers how to use FoodHub to source and serve healthy local foods for school meals. Resources for school food buyers, producers seeking to work with schools, parents, educators, and others are available in the FoodHub Knowledge Base.
Connecting NW Oregon and SW Washington Schools with small and minority-owned farms
Following a partnership in 2010-2011 with Portland State University and Adelante Mujeres, Ecotrust became inspired to facilitate more connections between schools and small or minority-owned farms. In 2011, Ecotrust received a Healthy Food Access grant from Kaiser Permanente Northwest’s Community Benefit program. Under this grant, Ecotrust will partner with school districts in our region with free and reduced lunch eligibility rates higher than 50% to help facilitate the purchase of more healthy, regionally produced food through 2013. We’ll also help connect schools with small, medium-sized, and minority-owned food producers in their communities, as well as community partners who can support this work. You can read more about the initial partnership that inspired this work here. To find out if your district is included in the Kaiser Permanente Northwest funding region, please contact us.
Building Farm to School into law
The Oregon State Legislature passed House Bill 2800, the Farm to School and School Garden Bill, in June 2011, and it was later signed into law. Sponsored by long-time Oregon Farm to School champions Reps. Brian Clem and Tina Kotek, the 2011 version of HB 2800 appropriates funds for a competitive grants pilot program in two medium-sized Oregon school districts.
As noted in this press release from the state, the work Ecotrust did in piloting a similar local lunch subsidy with Portland Public Schools and the Gervais School District was instrumental to the passing of HB 2800. You can read a report on that work, The Impact of 7 Cents, here. Another useful resource is this Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of farm to school policy published in spring 2011 by Upstream Public Health, which outlines the potential effects of HB2800 on Oregonians’ health.
Ecotrust would like to acknowledge and thank the Kaiser Permanente Community Fund at Northwest Health Foundation for funding the original pilot and research.
Interested in learning more about how this farm to school policy was passed? You can read about the history of farm to school legislation in Oregon here . You can also find a tremendous wealth of resources for the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Policy Approach here, including materials for pursuing your own advocacy.
Uniting Oregon leaders
Ecotrust helped found and is currently on the Steering Committee for the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network, a collective founded in 2007 comprised of nearly 200 governmental, community-based and nonprofit organizations, and individuals working together to increase access to and education about locally grown and processed food in schools. The Network is currently led by Megan Kemple at the Willamette Farm & Food Coalition and Tracy Harding at Rogue Valley Farm to School, and holds an annual meeting each fall.
Farm to Preschool feeds the youngest
Following a Farm to Head Start pilot program conducted in 2008–09 with the Oregon Child Development Coalition (OCDC), Ecotrust is co-leading a Farm to Preschool planning initiative on behalf of the National Farm to School Network, and we recently completed a survey of Farm to Preschool programs nationwide. Check out the results in this beautiful illustrated flyer. If you would like to learn more about Farm to Preschool, you can start by checking out www.farmtopreschool.org, as well as these presentations and documents created by Ecotrust:
- Farm to Head Start in Oregon (a description of our 2008–09 pilot program with OCDC)
- Farm to Preschool 101 (ppt presentation)
- Farm to Preschool Curriculum (ppt presentation)
- Farm to School Tips for Family Childcare Providers in Portland (pdf brochure)
Contact us for support implementing farm to school at your childcare center or to learn more about national or statewide farm to preschool efforts.