CORVALLIS, Ore. – In a banner year for Oregon State University Extension Service, more than $1 million in grants have been awarded to 15 Farm to School programs.
The grants, administered by the Oregon Department of Education, give the recipients the ability to expand or start programs that educate children about healthy local food and implement food- and garden-related projects.
“The grants are important because it’s going to give OSU Extension staff and volunteers the resources they need to help support and expand the Farm to School program in Oregon,” said Maureen Hosty, professor and Extension 4-H faculty. “I’m very excited that it will help us reach so many more kids in Oregon.”
The Oregon Farm to School and School Garden program got a shot in the arm in 2019 when the Oregon Legislature unanimously voted to increase funding for the grants for the 2020-2021 biennium from $4.6 million to $15 million. Farm to School is all about bringing nutritious food to children, teaching them how to grow it and exposing them to the sources of their food, according to Hosty. At the same time, it helps local farmers and other food producers extend their markets into Oregon schools, which helps support local economies.
“Farm to School is a movement that is sweeping across the United States and making a positive difference in the lives of youth, families, schools, farmers and local economies,” Hosty said. “Oregon is widely recognized as having one of the most successful local farm-to-school initiatives in the country. The passage of House Bill 2579 that tripled funding has propelled Oregon as a national leader in this movement.”
Grants ranged from $3,000 to $198,000 with the top awards going to Food Hero, Josephine County Extension and Klamath County Extension.
Food Hero, in collaboration with the Oregon Beef Council, received $197,607 for expanding the Oregon Harvest for Schools campaign. The money will pay for 26, one-minute educational videos, a toolkit for featured Oregon products and an innovative youth-driven promotional component for extending the reach of the Harvest for Schools to every county in Oregon.
Josephine County program directors plan to use their $120,289 grant to increase students’ knowledge of where food comes from and how it is grown and understand how food choices affect personal health and the health of the environment and community. In the process they learn to try food produced in Oregon.
A grant of $102,152 went to Klamath County and city school districts to educate youth about and provide access to Oregon-grown foods. Students learn about featured foods in cafeteria lines, harvest tasting tables, libraries and classrooms. They also expand their knowledge by meeting farmers, learning about plant science and participating in growing greens, hatching eggs and cooking challenges.
“Oregon is fortunate to have a strong team working to further the farm-to-school mission, including the Oregon Department of Education, Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and other amazing partners who provided statewide leadership to successfully ensure this program got funded,” Hosty said. “Farm to School enriches the connection communities have with fresh, healthy food and local food producers. In Farm to School programs kids win, farmers win and communities win.”