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Unanimous Support Secures the Future of "Farm to School" in Oregon
Unanimous support from the Oregon House, Senate and governor has passed a bill that supports local food in schools.
House Bill 2038 allocates $4.5 million for schools to continue to buy Oregon-grown and processed foods and to support agriculture- and garden-based education. With 144 school districts participating in the program, here are some ways this bill will affect Oregon and the kids who go to school here.
Kids learn to appreciate where their food comes from
How many children growing up in cities and suburbs really know how food gets from the farm to their table? This program supports education that helps kids realize food doesn't just grow on grocery store shelves, and teaches them that what they eat has a big impact on their bodies.
"Research shows that integrated farm to school and school garden programs are critical to not only change what kids think, know and feel about food, but also what they eat," said Michelle Ratcliffe, Ph.D, the former Farm to School program manager.
When kids realize what eating local, farm fresh foods means, they learn to develop a preference for fresh, healthy food during their formative years.
Cafeterias offer more nutritious meals
Nutrition in school cafeterias has improved in recent years, but many districts struggle to offer a variety of healthy choices because of budget constraints. However, the Pew Charitable Trusts reported that, when healthier choices are offered, "students of all ages are choosing lunches higher in nutritional quality and lower in calories per gram and consuming more fruits and larger shares of their entrees and vegetables."
The money allocated by HB 2038 will help schools offer more healthy options to Oregon kids.
Local farmers and producers have steady demand
The bill also ensures continued demand for local produce, benefitting Oregon farmers and the communities in which the farmers live.
"Several studies estimate that buying local food has a multiplier effect of 1.4-2.6 throughout the local economy; for every dollar spent locally, another 40 cents to $1.60 of economic activity is generated," according to the Farm to School Census.
To put that into perspective, if $2 million of the funds allocated went back to Oregon farmers, that would generate between $800,000 and $3.2 million of economic activity in local communities.
“We should always be using tax dollars to buy local,” Representative Brian Clem said “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.”
Reduced CO2 emissions
The closer to home you buy, the smaller the volume of carbon emissions associated with moving produce from its place of origin to your table.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States uses $2.2 trillion of products from countries all around the world every year. All those products have to be shipped and driven to their destinations.
That involves burning through roughly 11-billion gallons of fuel, which results in 1-billion metric tons of CO2 emissions. Buying local drastically cuts back on the fuel required for food transportation.
A strong talent pipeline for Oregon agriculture
The more kids know about agriculture, the more interest they'll have in pursuing careers in related fields. The only way to ensure the future of American agribusiness is to fuel it with intelligent, educated students who have an interest in how crops are grown and brought to market.
School garden programs are the first step in teaching children about the wonders of nature and the satisfaction of eating food they grow themselves.
Megan Kemple, Director of the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network says: “Farm to school is a win, win, win! Farmers win, kids win and communities win.”
Northwest Honda Dealers support fueling the future with local foods in schools and garden-based education. When kids know where their food comes from and how to grow it, they do better in school, and learn the skills for lifelong healthy eating. That's why Northwest Honda Dealers proudly support Rootopia, where the art, science and fun of raising happy, healthy kids comes together.