For 10 years, we've worked to improve access to healthy, local food in our school lunchrooms. And the work is paying off. Farm to school is transforming Oregon — generating $21 million for our communities, 100+ jobs, and feeding over 500,000 kids.
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 900 advocates for farm to school programming in Oregon, Ecotrust launched oregonfarmtoschool.org. A living guide to the most current information on farm to school outcomes in the state, we’ll update the website as more studies are conducted and new data becomes 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, 53% 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 2015-2016 school year, 128 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
462 K-12 schools have gardens — that’s approximately 45% 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 265 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 32,000 students.
In 2014, more than 800 teachers, parents, food service staff, and other community partners received trainings around the state, to run farm to school programs in their own communities. In 2016, 24 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.
In 2015, Oregon decided to invest $4.5 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.
There’s still so much more to be done.
We only have data for less than half of the 60+ measures that are statewide priorities in Oregon.
Some of the most important aspects of our work are also the most difficult to measure. From farm to school’s impact on parents and families, to the percentage of sales that benefit socially-disadvantaged producers, there’s a lot more that we could learn from continued research and evaluation.