Gardening

A bill supporting Farm to School and School Garden grant funding in Oregon was passed unanimously by Oregon’s legislature on July 6, preserving the $4.5 million program available to schools state-wide.

The bill, HB 2038, was championed by Representative Brian Clem in response to the removal of state funding for farm to school and school garden programs from Governor Brown’s draft budget earlier this year.

“We should always be using tax dollars to buy local,” Rep. Clem said today in a statement. “It never made sense to me to buy apples from anywhere else than right here in Oregon. This program connects our schools and children to our most important industry: agriculture. It’s Oregon farmers feeding Oregon’s children.”

With the state in a budget crisis and many programs facing loss of funding, the bill passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, maintaining farm to school’s strong bi-partisan support in Oregon. According to Rep. Clem: “There are a lot of people to thank for their work on Farm to School over the years, but Speaker Kotek and Rep. Nathanson really went to bat for us this session. We wouldn’t have a Farm to School program without their help, plain and simple.”

With yesterday’s decision, the legislature has allocated $4.5 million to a state-wide opt-in program that provides schools with funding to support farm to school and school garden programming giving students access to more local food during the school year, experiential learning opportunities and more.

“Oregon should be the best place for ensuring students have access to nutritious meals at school so they can learn, grow, and flourish,” said Matt Newell-Ching, Public Affairs Director at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. “A student who has a healthy breakfast and lunch at school is more likely to have better attendance, graduate high school, and be fully present and ready to learn in the classroom. Farm to School helps make that happen.”

Currently, 144 school districts receive “Farm to School” funds to buy foods produced or processed in the state of Oregon. (All districts are eligible, if they “opt in” and agree to follow reporting rules.) Funds may 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 will go to support “food, garden, and agriculture-based educational activities.”

“We are thrilled with the continued bi-partisan support for farm to school and it’s great to see the hard work from partners and advocates pay off this week,” said Ecotrust’s Executive Director, Jeremy Barnicle. “The economic benefits of these programs extend throughout the state, from urban centers to rural areas, with every dollar spent on farm to school purchasing in Oregon returning nearly two to the wider economy. This kind of regenerative impact inspires our work to help other institutions like hospitals and corporate campuses put more of their dollars toward local purchasing as well.”

In addition to the opt-in procurement funding, the funding also allows for a competitive education grant program. This past school year, 24 school districts or partner organizations received those funds to teach Oregon kids where their food comes from and how to grow, raise, or catch their own.

Said Curt Ellis of FoodCorps – a nationwide farm to school support program with a presence at numerous schools throughout Oregon, “At a time of so many hard choices in our state budget, FoodCorps is thrilled to see the Oregon legislature investing in farm to school programming and the dividends it will bring for our kids, our farmers and ranchers, and our communities. This commitment will strengthen Oregon's farm economy, while helping to ensure that children across the state are well-nourished and ready to learn.”

Megan Kemple, Director of the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network said, “Farm to school is a win, win, win! Farmers win, kids win and communities win.”

Learn more about HB2038 and see a timeline of Farm to School and School Garden legislation in the state at ecotrust.org/farm-to-school-advocacy/

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