Portland, Ore — Former Ecotrust Vice President of Food and Farms Deborah Kane was today named head of the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School program. Kane will draw on extensive experience building Ecotrust’s portfolio of food and farm programs, as she works to grow the federal government’s initiative to source healthy, regional food for school lunch programs.
“We’re thrilled to see Deborah take the work of building robust regional food systems to national level,” said Spencer Beebe, Ecotrust’s president. “We know that putting fresh local produce on kids’ lunch trays makes for healthier students and supports regional farmers and food economies.”
Farm to School activities are fast gaining momentum, with the federal government to offer $5 million in grants this year for programs nationwide and Oregon passing into law in August a similar competitive grant program worth $200,000. Both Oregon legislators and members of Congress cited Ecotrust’s landmark report, The Impact of Seven Cents, in arguing for Farm to School support. The report concludes that a public spending increase of seven cents on each child’s lunch would not only bring healthy, regionally-sourced food into the lunchroom, but also grow local farm employment and bring stability to the local food processing sector.
Ecotrust helped kick-start the local food movement more than a decade ago with establishment of the Farmer-Chef Connection network in Oregon and the promotion of local foods in its Section Z newspaper supplements. In 2004 and 2005, the organization mapped out an agenda for building strong local food systems throughout California, in the Vivid Picture Project ;for the Roots of Change Council. Under Kane’s direction in 2010, Ecotrust started an online wholesale food marketplace, FoodHub, which now has more than 3,000 members from California to Alaska. FoodHub was named one of Fast Company’s 10 Most Innovative Companies in Food in 2011.
Ecotrust’s most recent publication, Resilience and Transformation: A Regional Approach argues for more regional networks like FoodHub to better connect local and regional producers with distributors, processors and consumers. It also argues for a new generation of practices, programs and incentives that will attach increased value to local products in the marketplace
On the Farm to School front, Ecotrust was a founding member of the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden network and is the lead agency for eight Western states for the nonprofit National Farm to School Network. Under Kane’s leadership, Ecotrust piloted Farm to School programs in the Portland and Gervais school districts. The organization also leverages FoodHub to connect schools and local farmers.
Under Kane, Ecotrust also took on the publication of Edible Portland, a quarterly magazine that celebrates regional food bounty and boosts local knowledge about agricultural practices and culinary arts.
In July 2011, Kane joined President Obama, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and 16 other leaders from rural communities across the country for a White House roundtable on strengthening local communities and promoting economic growth. The Obama administration named Kane a “Champion of Change” for her work to support economies in Rural America.
Prior to joining Ecotrust, Kane ran an independent consulting business specializing in sustainable food and farming and served as the executive director of Food Alliance, one of the nation’s leading certification organizations for environmentally friendly and socially responsible agricultural practices. In 2003, Kane was appointed by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski to the Oregon Sustainability Board, where she served one term. She was awarded a W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food & Society Policy Fellowship and in 2010 was named one of “The 10 Most Inspiring People in Sustainable Food” by Fast Company.
On Kane’s departure in December, Amanda Oborne was appointed acting director of FoodHub, Ericka Carlson took over as publisher of Edible Portland, and Stacey Sobell continues to serve as the program manager for Ecotrust’s Farm to School initiatives.
Ecotrust’s mission is to foster a natural model of development that creates more resilient communities, economies and ecosystems here and around the world. For more than 20 years, Ecotrust has converted $80 million in grants into more than $500 million in capital for local people, businesses, and organizations from Alaska to California. Ecotrust’s many innovations include co-founding the world’s first environmental bank, starting the world’s first ecosystem investment fund, creating a range of programs in fisheries, forestry, food, farms and indigenous affairs, and developing new scientific and information tools to improve social, economic and environmental decision-making. Ecotrust works locally in ways that promise hope abroad, and it takes inspiration from the wisdom of Native and First Nation leadership in its work. Learn more at www.ecotrust.org