Nationally, school food represents a $3 billion market. For many years, Ecotrust has been working to connect that market with the regional food economy. In response to the absence of comprehensive, useful lists of producers willing and able to work with schools, Ecotrust created a tool to make connecting farmers and school food buyers easier.
To school food buyers, the portal offers fast, simple product searches that bring up easy-to-navigate lists of producers offering high-demand fruits and veggies on a school-size scale. These producers have been vetted by farm to school partners around the state.
The portal builds on the original OH4S curriculum integration materials. Gitta Grether-Sweeney is the director of Portland Public Schools Nutrition Services and has spent 28 years leading school district child nutrition programs. “The OH4S materials provide fantastic support to help us promote Oregon fruits and vegetables to kids and their families, as well as to teachers and others in the school community. But it’s still tough to find suppliers who are selling those specific crops and want to work with schools,” says Grether-Sweeney.
The portal makes sellers with these specifications — the right product, enough of it to sell to schools, and willingness to work with school districts — easy to find and contact.
Farm to school is all about relationships. Building the type of food economy that supports institutional purchasing and getting good food into the bellies of young eaters requires hearty partnerships and easy-to-maintain purchasing paths. The Oregon Harvest for Schools Portal is another step toward that economy.
If you’re a seller or a buyer interested in the Oregon Harvest for Schools Portal, check out www.oregonharvestforschools.com.