Release Date: 01-24-2008
House Education Committee unanimously votes for urgent action
SALEM, Ore. – The Farm-to-School and School Garden Legislative Concept, LC 79, introduced yesterday to the House Education Committee, won unanimous approval to move forward to the Oregon State Legislature’s 2008 Supplemental Session in February 2008. Supported by the Oregon Farm-to-School and School Garden Network, LC 79 will create and fund a farm-to-school and school garden program in the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) Child Nutrition Program (CNP). The CNP administers the state’s school meals program and is the sole state agency with the technical expertise and relationships necessary to assist schools, interpret current regulations, and facilitate the purchase of food products that meet state and federal guidelines. Testimony presented today from a seven-person panel – representing the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), ODE, school nutrition services, community gardening, hunger relief, and public health and wellness advocates – reinforced the support and the urgent need to fill a critical inter-agency coordination gap so that ODA and ODE, together, can work effectively with schools around the state to develop farm-to-school programs, respond to the recent changes in the school food regulatory landscape, and maximize existing public and private investments. “The question we’re facing is, how are we going to meet the new school food standards?,” said Representative Brian Clem. “I’d like to consider first how that’s going to be done with Oregon products. It takes years to develop new supplier relationships, now is the time to do this, we can’t wait.” “While ODA has experience and knowledge of the food production, processing and distribution sectors, we really need a counterpart within the Department of Education to help us navigate and better understand how best to connect to Oregon’s school lunch programs – particularly in smaller districts,” explained Dalton Hobbs, Assistant Director, Oregon Department of Agriculture. LC 79 will provide the Oregon Department of Education with a dedicated position to respond to these time sensitive opportunities. If ODE does not receive immediate resources to participate, the agency responsible for administering the school meal program will be largely absent from farm-to-school and school garden activities in Oregon. “Bringing farm-to-school programs to scale and ensuring that the benefits are made available to every school district in the Oregon requires ODE’s involvement,” said Deborah Kane, Vice President of Ecotrust’s Food and Farms Program. About Oregon Farm-to-School and School Garden Network The Oregon Farm-to-School and School Garden Network is a broad coalition of agricultural, economic, public health and environmental organizations, including Ecotrust, Growing Gardens, Oregon Food Bank, Oregon Hunger Relief Task Force, Upstream Public Health, Willamette Food and Farms Coalition, and more than 20 other public and private organizations. Oregon is considered a pioneer in the farm-to-school movement, which seeks to kick start a new generation of garden-based education and school food products, designed to improve the health of kids and support local farmers, food processors and manufacturers. For more information on the Legislative Concept or to sign up to receive email updates visit www.ecotrust.org/farmtoschool/.