Oregon lawmakers serve up a Bill that stimulates the state’s economy and fortifies school children
Release Date: 03-19-2009

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network, a statewide coalition of more than 100 organizations and individuals representing government, community-based, non-profit, and for-profit sectors, is championing a bill this legislative session that takes full advantage of the school lunchroom as a viable marketplace for Oregon agriculture. With an equal emphasis on food- and garden-based educational activities, the bill also places priority on making sure Oregon children have an opportunity beyond Dixie cups to plant some seeds.

Sponsored by Representative Tina Kotek (D- North/Northeast Portland) and Representative Brian Clem (D- Salem), HB 2800 allocates $22.6 million during the 2009 fiscal biennium to schools, and in the process, generates a sizable economic stimulus for the Oregon economy.

HB 2800 builds upon the existing “farm to school” program which was created by the 2007 legislature. For every meal served, HB 2800 would provide schools 15 cents per lunch and 7 cents per breakfast expressly for Oregon food purchases. In order for school districts to access state funds made available by HB 2800 to support local purchases, districts must first demonstrate a one-to-one-match using federal funds provided by the USDA’s National School Lunch and Breakfast program.

By leveraging existing federal dollars, the economic impact on Oregon’s agriculture and food manufacturing sectors is compounded. The legislation was mentioned on the priority list of the Oregon Speaker of House, Rep. David Hunt, under job creation initiatives.

“Agriculture represents 10 percent of the of the state’s economy and kids are our greatest resource — both groups deserve this investment,” said Clem.

The standard USDA reimbursement for a public school lunch served in Oregon is approximately $2.35 per meal. Of that, approximately $1.16 is spent on food, with the remainder going to necessary non food expenses. All told, Oregon schools spend upwards of $77,000,000 on food purchases in a school year. HB 2800 creates an opportunity to make sure a double helping of the school food pie stays in Oregon.

Even before the current economic crisis, data from the 2007 Census of Agriculture released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) show Oregon farms and agricultural businesses on the decline. It is more important than ever that we support this vital sector in Oregon.

Teaching the Next Generation of Healthy Eaters and Future Farmers
Recognizing a critical need to improve children’s knowledge about, and attitudes toward, agriculture, food, nutrition and the environment, this bill also helps create food literate, lifelong healthy eaters by providing vital hands-on food and garden-based education. HB2800 creates a fund to support agriculture-, food- and garden-based education programs through mini-grants, which schools and districts may apply for through the Oregon Department of Education. There is evidence that students consume more healthy fruits and vegetables when garden and other agriculture learning programs are in place.

“We know that the child who has planted, tended, harvested and tasted kale in the school garden is much more likely to eat that kale when it shows up on the lunch line,” says Kotek. “The comprehensiveness of the approach helps ensure we’ll successfully create lifelong healthy eaters.”

Currently, HB 2800 is scheduled for its first hearing in front of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee at 8 a.m., Thursday, April 2.

About Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network
The Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network, a collective founded in 2007, is comprised of more than 100 governmental, community-based, and for-profit organizations, and individuals working together with the following mission: “We convene statewide leadership to promote the health and well-being of children, families, farms and the environment by increasing access to locally grown and processed food in schools and by supporting food and garden-based education in Oregon.