Portland Public Schools seeks to cultivate local growers as suppliers for school lunch program
Release Date: 05-16-2007

PORTLAND, Ore. — Viewing the cafeteria as a classroom, and locally sourced food as a vital subject of study, the Portland Public School district announces two requests for proposals (RFPs) from Oregon growers and food companies to supply the district with a wide array of Oregon grown products. For the first time, the district is seeking locally grown items to incorporate into the 20,000 lunches it serves each day.

The district’s call for proposals is another step toward realizing its vision of making school cafeterias a model for health, wellness and food system sustainability. The first RFP, Farm to School Produce – Harvest of the Month, solicits local growers to provide fresh fruits and vegetables for the district’s five-month old educational program where a particular Oregon product is featured throughout district lunchrooms on a monthly basis. The second RFP, Fresh Produce Products, calls for produce distribution companies to supply fruits and vegetables to the school district on a regular basis.

“For Harvest of the Month, we are looking for local producers — growers and food processors — to provide featured items,” Kristy Obbink, R.D., director of Nutrition Services for Portland Public Schools. “We are asking applicants a lot of questions about the origination of their food, and looking for items that come from as close to PPS as possible. For our day to day produce needs, we’d also like to start moving toward incorporating more locally sourced products and thus we’re asking that the produce distribution companies that want to do business with PPS help us identify where our fresh produce comes from.”

Working with community partners such as Ecotrust Food & Farms program, Portland Public Schools district aspires to incorporate as much local food products into its purchasing program as possible and, in the process, teach students where their food comes from, how it is grown and who grows it. The fringe benefit being a healthier student populace well versed on the agricultural bounty in their backyards and beyond.

“By inviting local growers into the lunchroom, we give a boost to the local economy, support Oregon farmers and make that vital link between our urban schools and the rural community,” says Deborah Kane, vice president of Ecotrust Food & Farms program. “We’re hoping we can start telling more stories about the people behind the food we serve our children. The Portland Public School district sees the immediate benefits of providing students with healthy fare, yet they also grasp that the long-term advantages of being a great community partner to the agricultural community are innumerable.”

Proposal Application Information

Request for proposal applications are available by contacting Travis Allison in the PPS Purchasing Department at 503-916-3441 or e-mail. Applications must be filled out in their entirety and submitted not later than May 30, 2007. For the Harvest of the Month program, the anticipated contract start date is August 1, with items being delivered to PPS October 2007 through June 2008.

Lawmakers and Schools Find Common Ground

The local food movement has caught the attention of Salem lawmakers as well. Portland Public School district’s RFPs come at a time when the Oregon Legislature is considering a trio of bills that would support similar efforts across the state. HB 3476 (Kotek) allocates seven cents per meal served to increase utilization of Oregon grown food in schools. To support this Oregon Department of Education initiative, HB 3307 (Clem) creates a Farm to School Program within the Oregon Department of Agriculture. These two bills are complemented by HB 3185 (Clem), which creates a School Garden Program within the Oregon Department of Education and awards mini-grants to schools to establish on-campus gardens.

About Ecotrust’s Food & Farms Program www.ecotrust.org

Since 2001, Ecotrust’s Food & Farms program has been investing in building direct market connections between farmers, ranchers, and fishermen and restaurant chefs, grocery retail buyers, institutions and distributors. One of five major program areas of the Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit Ecotrust, the Food & Farms Program is building a vision for a sustainable food system.