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Legislators taste a whole new lunch

Healthy school lunch gives young Oregonians – including the large number who experience food insecurity – a daily, balanced meal. Garden-based education helps increase children’s food literacy and teaches life-long healthy eating habits. Farm to School supports regional food economies and creates new markets for Oregon farmers.

To celebrate Farm to School Month, dozens of Oregon legislators headed to school cafeterias this October to check out what’s new on the menu.

Why did these legislator lunches take place? Statewide funding and legislation is key to growing Farm to School efforts in Oregon. House Bill 2800, passed in 2011, provides just under $200,000 in statewide funding to bring more Oregon-grown and processed foods into school lunches and support food, agriculture, and garden-based educational activities. Starting last week, school districts have the opportunity to apply for this funding to expand their Farm to School efforts.

Although the $200,000 will be awarded to just a few Oregon districts as part of a pilot program, Ecotrust research shows that every dollar spent on Oregon-grown and -processed foods has a significant multiplier effect on Oregon’s farming and processing industries.

In 2013, a growing group of Farm to School advocates will return to the legislature to ask for an expanded $5 million Farm to School grant program. These advocates, co-led by Ecotrust and Upstream Public Health, invited legislators to lunch to showcase the real impacts that Farm to School and school garden programming have for hungry kids and hard-working farmers in their communities.

Healthy school lunch gives young Oregonians – including the large number who experience food insecurity – a daily, balanced meal. Garden-based education helps increase children’s food literacy and teaches life-long healthy eating habits. Farm to School supports regional food economies and creates new markets for Oregon farmers.

Ecotrust helped organize three lunches: at Cascade Elementary in the Lebanon Community School District, Centennial Learning Center (CLC) in the Centennial School District, and Grant Community School in the Salem-Keizer School District. Increased funding from the state will allow schools like Cascade, CLC and Grant to sustain and expand their innovative programming and allow more schools across Oregon to develop successful programs.

Legislators get a taste of how school lunch is changing
On Food Day, October, 24, Representative Sherrie Sprenger (R-Scio, House District 17) toured Cascades Elementary. Student guides gave a tour of the district’s Planting Seeds of Change edible teaching and production gardens, which produced 800 pounds of food for the school meal program and a local hospital last year! (Learn more about the visit in this Democrat Herald story.)

Sen-Andersson-and-Brian
Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson (D–Gresham, District 25) and farmer Brian Dickerson of Dancing Roots Farm listen as Conrad Schumacher, Centennial Learning Center chef and teacher, describes the lunch they are about to eat, prepared by CLC students using vegetables from Dancing Roots.

On October 26, Senator Laurie Monnes Anderson (D–Gresham, District 25) and Representative Greg Matthews (D-Gresham, District 50) visited Centennial Learning Center. They experienced their innovative lunch program, which incorporates farm fresh produce. In August 2012, the district began incorporating a weekly share of vegetables from Dancing Roots Farm into its school lunches. All students learn to cook in the culinary program, which prepares breakfast and lunch daily for the school. Centennial Learning Center was also the first school in Gresham to pilot composting food scraps.

Rep-Matthews-and-crew
Rep. Greg Matthews (D-Gresham, District 50) points out what’s on the menu for lunch at the Centennial Learning Center, highlighting vegetables from Dancing Roots Farm. He is flanked by the Oregon Department of Education’s new Farm to School Coordinator Rick Sherman, FoodCorps fellow Emily Ritchie, principal Jamie Juenemann, and the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Specialist, Michelle Ratcliffe.

On Halloween, October 31, Congressman Kurt Schrader (D, District 5), Representative Vicki Berger (R-Salem, District 20), and Representative Brian Clem (D-Salem, District 21) ate school lunch at Grant Community School. They joined Food Service Director Dave Harvey; representatives from the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, and Ecotrust; and elementary students to tour the school garden, learn about the school’s composting program, participate in an apple taste test, and experience how the district is changing what students eat and how cafeterias source food. (Learn more about the visit in this Statesman Journal story and this Capital Press story.)

A raised bed in the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation's Learning Gardens at Grant Community School overflows with abundant fall produce. Students at Grant report that kale is one of their favorite vegetables (!) – they turn it into tasty kale chips with School Garden Coordinator Brenda Knobloch
A raised bed in the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation’s Learning Gardens at Grant Community School overflows with abundant fall produce. Students at Grant report that kale is one of their favorite vegetables (!) – they turn it into tasty kale chips with School Garden Coordinator Brenda Knobloch
Food Corps Service member Chelsea Thomsen and Salem-Keizer Education Foundation School Garden Coordinator Brenda Knobloch serve tastes of several varieties of Oregon apples to students in the cafeteria at Grant Community School.
Food Corps Service member Chelsea Thomsen and Salem-Keizer Education Foundation School Garden Coordinator Brenda Knobloch serve tastes of several varieties of Oregon apples to students in the cafeteria at Grant Community School.
From left: Representative Brian Clem (D-Salem, District 21), Representative Representative Vicki Berger (R-Salem, District 20) and Congressman Kurt Schrader (D, District 5) check out the composting setup in the cafeteria at Grant Community School in the Salem-Keizer School District.
From left: Representative Brian Clem (D-Salem, District 21), Representative Representative Vicki Berger (R-Salem, District 20) and Congressman Kurt Schrader (D, District 5) check out the composting setup in the cafeteria at Grant Community School in the Salem-Keizer School District.

Photos by Stacey Sobell.