Release Date: 10-17-2007
Farm to School supporters - from farmers and food buyers to food service directors and parents - invited to use new site to strengthen growing movement
PORTLAND, Ore. – As a means to support community-based food systems, strengthen family farms and improve student health by reducing childhood obesity, the National Farm to School Network launched its new and improved website, www.farmtoschool.org. This timely release coincides with the observance this week of National School Lunch Week 2007. Farmtoschool.org is the portal for farm to school information in the U.S., including extensive content with easy access for submitting information about programs, upcoming events, news and funding opportunities, and online discussion forums to dialogue about issues facing farm to school programs. “We want to encourage farmers, teachers, food service directors, parents and others working to bring locally grown and produced foods to school lunchrooms and gardens to use this portal as a tool to promote events, highlight successes and share lessons learned,” said Michelle Ratcliffe, Farm to School Manager with the nonprofit conservation organization Ecotrust and Regional Lead Coordinator for Farm to School programs in the Western United States. A user-friendly new feature includes a state profile for each of the 34 states with active farm to school programs. For example, click on Washington on the map, and you can search for policies, farmers, funding opportunities, and involved groups specific to the state. The website also allows users to post or revise information making the FarmtoSchool.org an interactive and dynamic resource. “Highlighting key news and events across the nation and also particular to Washington, the new website vastly improves the ability to stay up-to-date and involved,” said Ratcliffe. As the Regional Lead Agency, Ecotrust’s Food and Farms Program is the hub for farm to school activities in the Western region, which encompasses Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii and Nevada. In this role, Ecotrust supports the National Network in areas of policy, information, media, and networking opportunities as well as training and technical assistance for individuals working on farm to school issues. The National Farm to School Network received a three-year, $2.4 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to establish a viable and sustainable mechanism to coordinate, promote and expand the farm to school movement at the state, regional, and national levels. The Network is coordinated by the Center for Food & Justice at the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College (www.uepi.oxy.edu) and the Community Food Security Coalition (www.foodsecurity.org). About Ecotrust’s Food and Farms Program www.ecotrust.org/foodfarms Since 2001, Ecotrust’s Food and 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 and Farms Program is building a vision for a sustainable food system.