Megan Kemple, Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network
Jerusha Klemperer, FoodCorps
Salem, Ore., Wednesday, April 5, 2017– A bill to expand Farm to School and School Garden grant funding in Oregon has taken a critical next step, moving to the Ways and Means Committee before being considered for funding.
Despite demonstrable positive impacts for the state, Farm to School and School Garden grant funding was completely removed from Governor Brown’s proposed 2017–19 draft budget. In response, Representative Brian Clem championed House Bill 2038 to expand funding for the statewide program from the current $4.5 million to $5.6 million for the coming two-year budget cycle. If passed, the funding would provide five cents in support for local food, for every school lunch served in Oregon. The House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources has been highly supportive of the bill, and today they voted in support of the bill and sent it to the Joint Committee on Ways and Means where budget decisions are made.
Currently, 144 school districts receive “Farm to School” funds to buy, serve, and promote foods produced or processed in the state of Oregon. (All districts are eligible, if they “opt in” and agree to follow reporting rules.) Funds can be used to purchase Oregon products from farm-fresh vegetables and fruit, to frozen berries, to beef, grains, fish, and dairy products, or even processed foods like hummus or soups. The other portion of the program supports “food, garden, and agriculture-based educational activities.” Currently, 24 school districts or partner organizations are receiving those funds to teach Oregon kids where their food comes from and how to grow, raise, or catch their own.
During an initial hearing this past February, Committee Chairman Brian Clem (D-Salem) said “there’s nothing more lovable or more ‘Oregon” than the Farm to School and School Garden Program.” He also emphasized the connections that this program builds: “it shows that we need each other across the state – urban eaters and rural farmers need each other. I wish every bill demonstrated how much we need each other, and built community like this.”
Speaker of the House Tina Kotek (D-Portland) said, “This program is doing what we asked it to do — connecting our students to food and agriculture. I’ve never heard a person say they don’t like it. Now it’s a matter of whether we’re going to support it and whether we’re going to make that support permanent.”
Producers from across the state also voiced their support. Jeff Thomas traveled 244 miles to Salem from Kimberly, Oregon, (Grant County) for the February hearing to share that selling to schools has helped his family orchard stay afloat, and how he values these programs both for the sales and the educational components. He emphasized that buying locally helps keep money circulating in Oregon communities, and said that investing in farm to school and school gardens is “one of the best ways you can spend your dollar.”
High school freshman Abi Janseau of South Salem High talked about her experiences in school gardens in the Salem-Keizer school district. “When our (middle school) class first started in the gardens,” she said, “many of my classmates thought that tomatoes came from Winco. Now they know that they come from plants, and how to grow them, themselves!” She also highlighted that school gardens are good for relationships. “Out in the garden, cliques don’t matter, we are all equals, and we are all community.”
Learn more about HB2038 and see a timeline of Farm to School and School Garden legislation in the state at https://ecotrust.org/farm-to-school-advocacy/
Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network is a network of nearly 1,000 individuals and organizations from all around the state, working to implement and improve farm to school and school garden programs. oregonfarmtoschool.org
Ecotrust is powered by the vision of a world where people and nature thrive together. Since 1991, we have partnered with local communities from California to Alaska to build new ways of living and doing business. From forestry to finance, food access to green building, we work to advance social equity, economic opportunity, and environmental well-being. Together, we are making this place we live a home that we love. Learn more at ecotrust.org. Follow us @ecotrust
FoodCorps connects kids to healthy food in school. Its team of AmeriCorps leaders serves in high-need schools to make sure students learn what healthy food is, fall in love with it, and eat it every day. Its corps members team up with educators to deliver lead hands-on lessons in growing, cooking and tasting healthy food; partner with farmers and food service workers to create nutritious and delicious school meals; and collaborate with communities to build a schoolwide culture of health. Building on this foundation of direct impact, FoodCorps pursues systemic strategies that will benefit all of our nation’s 100,000 schools. To learn more visit foodcorps.org