From public health to economic stimulus, there was a clear need to aggregate farm to school data in one place for administrators, farmers, school food service directors, advocates, and lawmakers to see the clear impacts of this work throughout the state.
On behalf of the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network, a group of 1200 farm to school stakeholders in Oregon, Ecotrust launched oregonfarmtoschool.org/counts. A living guide to the most current information on farm to school outcomes in the state, our partners will update the website as new data become available.
Keep reading for a bird’s-eye view on the impact of farm to school efforts in Oregon, and visit the website to dive into additional outcomes and learn more.
In Oregon, 51% of kids qualify for free and reduced lunch.
That means that often, school lunch is the most reliable source of food that Oregon kids have. It’s a critical meal, and deserves to be as good as we can possibly make it. Luckily, schools are stepping up to the challenge. In the 2017-2018 school year, 115 school districts, serving approximately 89% of Oregon school meals, included healthy, local food in those meals as part of Oregon’s Farm to School and School Garden Grant Program.
Schools dig nature
724 K-12 schools have gardens — that’s approximately 48% of all schools in the state!
From growing school gardens, to sustainable food purchasing and composting, farm to school is an earth friendly practice. Gardens and cafeterias are essential classrooms where students can learn about everything from water quality and ecosystem services to composting and reducing food waste. In fact, at least 507 of Oregon’s school gardens are used to support curriculum, strengthening students’ environmental literacy and ecological ethics.
Local food by the books
Oregon farm to school grants for food literacy reach 22,946 students.
In 2018, more than 350 teachers, parents, food service staff, and other community partners received trainings to run farm to school programs in their own communities. In 2017, 22 school districts and community partners received state grant funds to run educational programs. These farm to school trailblazers are not only teaching kids about food, but are also using food as a gateway into learning about all sorts of subjects, from math to art literacy. These educational opportunities have the added benefit of increasing the likelihood that kids will try and like new fruits and vegetables, since it usually takes at least eight exposures to a new food before a child is ready to like it.
Since 2011, Oregon has invested over $25 million, and the benefits are rippling across the entire state economy.
When it comes to Oregon’s economy, the impact of school food is on the rise: Oregon schools spend about a quarter of their budget on local food. Farm to school generated more than $21 million and 100 jobs in the 2011-2012 school year. But, there’s more work to be done, including working intentionally to make these economic benefits available to everyone across the supply chain and identifying opportunities to support socially disadvantaged producers, farmworkers, and laborers.