Farm to School
Farm to School: Building a Resilient Regional Food System
Can you imagine a school cafeteria where healthy active fourth graders know who grew their spinach and where their fish was caught? We can.
Ecotrust’s Farm to School program works to help build a resilient food system. We see that as one that offers fresh, healthy food to all residents, economically viable food value chains that fairly compensate and respect the dignity of all participants, and methods of food production that renew our resources. As resilience increases, we believe our community will see better health outcomes, more prosperous economies, and higher levels of social capital. 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 our bioregion
Ecotrust has served as the Western Regional Lead Agency of the National Farm to School Network since 2007, supporting programs in Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. We provide networking opportunities and resource sharing, and help to plan the annual Farm to Cafeteria Conference. 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.
Connecting schools with local food
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.
Ecotrust also established the Farm to School Showcase as part of the school food trade show at the Oregon School Nutrition Association annual conference. This event helps school food service staff from across the state connect with fantastic local food producers, processors, and distributors, and presents an opportunity to shift institutional purchasing practices toward an investment in healthy kids and local communities. We’d like to see Farm to School Showcases in every state, so we’ve made it easy to host an event in your own state using our Farm to School Showcase Toolkit. Read more about the origins of the toolkit on our blog, or view a short webinar on the subject.
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 partners 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. 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. To find out if your district is included in the Kaiser Permanente Northwest funding region, please contact us.
Building Farm to School into law
In July 2013 the Oregon State Legislature voted to expand the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden grant program (House Bill 2649) to more than one million dollars. More than 20 legislators visited school cafeterias and gardens in their districts last fall to see these programs in action. With great leadership, support, and collaboration from folks across the state, HB2649 received unanimous support from the House and Senate at every vote and passed — a major victory! House Speaker Tina Kotek included Farm to School and school gardens as one of the major accomplishments in her end-of-session press release.
As noted in this press release from the state, the work Ecotrust did in piloting a local lunch subsidy with Portland Public Schools and the Gervais School District was instrumental to the passing of the first Farm to School and School Garden Bill, House Bill 2800. You can read a report on that work, The Impact of 7 Cents, here. Another useful resource is a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of farm to school policy published in spring 2011 by Upstream Public Health, which outlined 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 Farm to School advocacy in Oregon? Contact us to learn how you can get involved. You can also find resources for the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Policy Approach here, including materials for pursuing your own advocacy. Read more about the history of farm to school advocacy efforts in Oregon.
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 over 250 governmental, community-based and nonprofit organizations, farmers, businesses and individuals working together to increase access to and education about locally grown and processed food in schools. The Network – currently led by Megan Kemple at the Willamette Farm & Food Coalition and Tracy Harding at Rogue Valley Farm to School – holds an annual meeting each fall.
Feeding the youngest with Farm to Preschool
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 recently completed a survey of Farm to Preschool programs nationwide. Check out the results in this beautifully 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)
- Local Procurement Tips for Early Care (pdf)
Ecotrust also leads a statewide Farm to Preschool Coalition formed in 2012 in order to better support programs across the state. All models of early care and education are included in this effort. Projects include developing resources and leading Farm to Preschool trainings for early care staff and providers.
Contact us for support implementing Farm to School at your early care center or to learn more about national or statewide Farm to Preschool efforts.