Salem, Ore. – The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources unanimously passed HB 2649 on Thursday morning. It moves next to the Joint Ways and Means Committee. Senator Richard Devlin (D – Tualatin) and Representative Peter Buckley (D – Ashland), co-chairs of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, listed Farm to School as a “priority add-back” item in the draft budget they released on Monday, so the bill’s prospects in Ways and Means looks good.
HB 2649 allocates $5,000,000 in funding to the Oregon Department of Education to make grants to school districts for the purchase of Oregon-grown or -processed products and for food-, garden-, and agriculture-based education. That education can include a wide variety of activities, from chef visits to school gardens to farm field trips, all of which support kids learning about their food and developing healthy eating habits. The 2649-5 amendments, which passed, slightly revised the percentage allocation of funds to food purchasing vs. related educational activities. The new requirement is that a minimum of 80% of all grant funds goes to food purchasing, and a minimum of 10% goes to educational efforts.
In the public hearing held on February 21, 2013 the bill was lauded as an excellent economic stimulator, creating farm jobs and paving the way for innovative partnerships between school districts and farmers to feed children healthy foods grown right within their home state.
In Thursday’s work session, Representatives from Upstream Public Health and the Oregon Department of Education were on hand to answer questions from the committee members. Almost all their questions could be answered with details from the pilot grant program, which passed in 2011, is now running in 11 school districts, and which includes schools purchasing beef, fish, produce, and locally processed foods. (Learn more about the pilot grant program here.)
Ecotrust and Upstream Public Health have been working together to advance Farm to School programs in Oregon since 2006.
Ecotrust’s mission is to foster a natural model of development that creates more resilient communities, economies, and ecosystems here and around the world. Over more than 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $80 million in grants into more than $800 million in capital for local people, businesses, and organizations from Alaska to California. The Ecotrust Farm to School program supports and promotes farm to school programming at local, state, and regional levels, acting as the Lead Agency for the 8-state western region of the National Farm to School Network, co-leading a national farm to preschool initiative, and exploring ways to connect low-income and minority producers and consumers in the food system. www.ecotrust.org
Upstream Public Health acts as a catalyst to drive healthy changes, making Oregon a better place to live, work, study, and play. All Oregonians – whether urban or rural – should have access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity. We envision an Oregon where people are living happy healthy active lives and reaching their full potential. www.upstreampublichealth.org