Two elementary school students participate in the Urban Agriculture Festival at a middle school in Salem, Ore. Photo credit: Shawn Linehan
For the past decade, Ecotrust has run an active farm to school program, yet we are neither a farm nor a school. What is farm to school, what work do we do, and how does it impact local farmers and kids?
This past fall, Ecotrust wrapped up a three-year project funded by Kaiser Permanente, helping 36 low-income school districts in our region bring farm to school programs to life. As the project concluded, we zoomed in on the Salem-Keizer School District, where local food procurement and a school-based aquaculture program have taken off, to share a slice of this work. We hope this gives a window into our work and its impact.
A school district unites around food: Welcome to the Salem-Keizer School District in Oregon, where 40,000 students are eating more healthy, local food and learning in school gardens, cafeterias, and classrooms. Meet our diverse team of partners who brought this farm to school program to life.
Our work in Salem is one component of a much larger project in both Oregon and Washington.
In fall 2011, Ecotrust reached out to 36 school districts in the Pacific Northwest wherein 50 percent or more of the student body qualified for free or reduced lunch — a proxy for low-income — and 110 regional farmers and food suppliers.
Over the past decade, Oregon farm to school practitioners, including Ecotrust, have focused much of our work on readying school districts to buy from local farmers, and less on readying farmers to sell to schools. Not surprisingly as a result, 65% of the school districts we worked with were already buying some local food before this project began, while only 35% of farmers were already selling to schools. We look forward to building on this work in the future by doing more targeted work to ready producers for institutional markets.
Building on our success with schools, Ecotrust has begun forming partnerships with other institutional food buyers such as hospitals, the Department of Corrections, universities, and corporate campuses, in order to increase their spending within our local food economy.
Our ability to help school districts plan, write, and implement state farm to school grants helped them secure more than $500,000 in additional funds for farm to school.
It was rewarding to have the opportunity to partner with school districts and producers over three years, so that we could reap some of the rewards of seeds that were planted three, five, and even ten years ago. Looking back on this project energizes us for the next three plus years, and the potential that they hold.
This work was made possible in part by Kaiser Permanente.
Welcome to the Salem-Keizer School District in Oregon, where 40,000 students are eating more healthy, local food and learning in school gardens, cafeterias, and classrooms. Meet our diverse team of partners who brought this farm to school program to life.