Oregon’s Farm To School program will get a $500,000 boost over the next two years if Gov. John Kitzhaber signs off on a bill passed by the Legislature.
House Bill 2649 more than doubles the $189,000 in grants issued to 11 Oregon schools in 2011. Those grants connected schools with local farmers and fishermen and put Oregon berries, beef, wheat and oats onto student lunch trays across the state.
As I reported earlier this year, those grants even allowed the Bend school district to add some scrumptious Oregon coast seafood – pink shrimp salad and Dover sole fillets – to its lunch menus.
After a 27-0 vote in the state Senate today, Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, said the Farm To School program improves children’s health as well as rural communities. It also has the environmental benefit of fewer transportation miles.
However, Kasandra Griffin of Upstream Public Health said the funding for the bill wasn’t even close to the $5 million advocates had requested.
“We are thrilled by another year of unanimous votes by both House and Senate,” she said. “We were hoping for a higher level of investment in the programs, and we are still calling on legislators to increase investments through an end of the year appropriations bill.”
If Gov. Kitzhaber signs the bill, schools across the state will be invited to apply for the grants this summer so they could start buying local foods for school lunches in the fall. The bill would also fund school gardens and agricultural education activities.