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Oregon's School Lunch Program Shows Improvement


For years, child nutrition advocates have criticized Oregon leaders for not prioritizing money for school lunches.

But that’s changed, judging by an analysis called “Oregon’s Healthy School Food Report Card,” released Wednesday.

Lunch time at Rigler School.

Lunch time at Rigler School.

Phoebe Flanigan/OPB

Upstream Public Health and Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon are among the groups giving Oregon generally high marks for new school lunch policies.

“Oregon is doing a lot of things right. And a lot of that is recent changes — the 2015 Legislature I think was the best ever for school food,” said Kasandra Griffin with Upstream Public Health.  

Lawmakers funded free lunches for more students — about 30,000 more students, who formerly had to pay 40 cents for a reduced-price lunch.

But there are criticisms in the the new report. It says schools should make drinking water more attractive by cleaning up drinking fountains or by setting up water coolers. It also pushes Oregon schools to crack down on junk food.

The analysis finds that 95 percent of public schools offered breakfast programs, but that only about one-third of kids eligible for free meals ate school breakfasts.

Advocates hope that more students will eat school breakfasts now that lawmakers are allowing the meals to be eaten in classrooms.

The one aspect of school lunch where Oregon has long been considered a leader — locally-sourced food — got a boost from the most recent legislative session, as well.

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