Imagine your child comes home after a long day at school and she immediately asks you, “What’s for dinner?” You think quickly through your options, deducing that it’s definitely your turn to make dinner and that any restaurant is too far away from where you’re currently standing to warrant being a real option. You’re already tired from work and you know that the dinner table has set the scene for many epic battles in your household. Getting your child to eat a balanced, nutritious meal is really hard sometimes and weighing the options out in your head, you finally say to yourself, “I need help getting healthy and wholesome meals in front of my child.”
You can rest assured that whenever your child eats a school lunch, you don’t have to worry about whether or not she is getting healthy foods. Oregon schools are dedicated to making sure that every meal they serve your child is local, nutritious, and delicious.
Meet Amy Gilroy.
Amy is the Farm to School Program Manager for the Oregon Department of Agriculture. She has been working with the state for the last two years, making sure that Oregon’s agricultural producers and schools have developed symbiotic relationships with one another. The Farm to School Program has been around since 2007 and over the last nine years has grown to be significantly larger. What started as a program with $200,000 in funds has now grown to over $4.5 million dollars in available funding.
The program works like this.
The programs funding is split up into an 80:20 ratio, where 80 percent of the funding helps schools purchase local products and 20 percent goes towards grants that fund educational programs. One of the main goals of this program is to foster relationships with local producers and schools. Schools seek out products that are the best fit for their school food cafeteria. Gilroy says, “When schools go out and seek their own producers, they are more likely to be happier with their product choices and to develop long lasting relationships with producers.”
The first step a school has to take to get into the program is to opt-in through the Oregon Department of Education. After the schools opt-in they are then tasked with going out and buying local products. The State of Oregon then reimburses the schools for money they’ve spent on local products, up to a certain amount they are qualified for. Schools can seek out products from any producer in Oregon and can buy most agricultural products.
To honor the contributions that producers are making to Farm to School in Oregon, the ODA has announced 5 regional Oregon Farm to School Producer Awards in 2016. These people are not only great producers, they are also exceptional allies to this wonderful program.
Tom and Sue Hunton, traditionally grass seed farmers, started transitioning some of their land to bean and grain production in 2006. In 2011, the Hunton’s opened Camas Country Mill and since that time the Mill has received national recognition for growing heirloom grains and producing artisan flour. Camas Country Mill participates in farm to school on so many levels. The number of districts they are working with grows each year, and they currently sell to six districts including Bethel, South Lane, Eugene 4J, and Bend LaPine. Tom, Sue and Stephanie, Camas Country Mill’s Education Coordinator, regularly provide tours of the mill to students of all ages. Stephanie and Sue have even supported school food service staff in the South Lane School District by preparing pizza dough along with staff and sharing recipes to make biscuits, dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, cheese rolls, with Camas Country Mill flour.
As one of the last remaining mills in Oregon, they are passionate about getting locally sourced and produced food to Oregon schoolchildren! Above all, they support schools in providing local foods to students at affordable prices, make the effort to connect with students, take the time to explore and respond to school food service needs, continue to honor the school food market and support and encourage scratch baking in Oregon schools.
The T 7 Ranch family supports schools in so many ways. First and foremost they donate and sell beef to many schools in this part of the state. They also offer their equipment for helping to build gardens, dropping off fertilizer, and they often have students out to the ranch to help with planting and harvesting of several different types of crops and learn about different farm machinery.
Kiyokawa Family Orchards is a family-owned and operated farm located in Parkdale, Oregon. Kiyokawa Family Orchards has been growing the finest produce available since 1911 in the Hood River Valley. The fertile soils found at the base of Mt. Hood and glacier-fed water sources create a unique growing environment allowing Kiyokawa to produce 140 distinct varieties of apples, pears, and Asian pears. Recently, Kiyokawa Family Orchards was voted one of the top ten apple orchards in the country by USDA Today. Here locally, Randy and his team sell to many districts in the Portland Metro and Hood River Valley. This past year alone, David Douglas, Portland Public, and Hood River Districts purchased more than 38,000 pounds of apples from Kiyokawa under Oregon’s Farm to School program.
Bornstein Seafoods, founded in 1934, has been one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier seafood processors for over 82 years. Owned and operated by the third generation of the Bornstein family, Bornstein sells over 75 different seafood products to customers across domestic and international markets. While some of their products may travel the globe, Bornstein has also been a great advocate and partner in bringing local seafood to Oregon schools.
Beginning in 2012, Bornstein worked with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, FoodCorps and the Bend-La Pine school district to kick-off their Boat to School program. The program garnered national attention as Bornstein worked with Bend La-Pine’s food service staff to develop special cuts of fish to meet school lunch protein requirements. This allowed them to put Oregon Pacific Pink shrimp, Dover sole, and rockfish on lunch trays at all 27 district schools on a weekly basis. They also helped host Bend’s first ever “Boat to School day”. Through Bornstein’s boat to school efforts, they have worked with Seaside, Portland Public Schools and the Tigard-Tualatin School District.
In Tigard, all 6th-12th-grade students at 5 different schools taste-tested Oregon shrimp. Bornstein works with kitchen staff to understand the best ways to serve local seafood and tests recipes, like shrimp fettuccine and fresh shrimp cocktails, to see which one’s students like best. Bornstein’s Export Sales Manager and farm to school champion, Christa Svensson, loves partnering with Oregon schools because she says it is “extremely rewarding to see how interested and engage children are in learning about where their food comes from and in trying new products.” Above all, Bornstein supports schools in providing local foods to students at affordable prices, takes the time to explore and respond to school food service needs, and continues to honor the school food market by supporting and encouraging local, wild, and sustainably caught seafood being served in Oregon schools.
Fry Family Farm has been working with Rogue Valley Farm to School to bring fresh local produce to Jackson and Josephine county school districts since RVF2S began supporting school procurement in 2009. Fry Family Farm is an approved vendor for the USDA Pilot Project of Unprocessed Fruit and Vegetables which has provided the five (now seven) participating districts in southern Oregon the opportunity to shift their entitlement funds to purchasing from Fry Family Farm and a local pear vendor.
During the last school year, Fry Family Farm sold nearly $25,000 of specialty crops through the Pilot – products like (Beets, Spinach, Kales, Chards, Winter and Summer Squash, Cabbage, Tomatoes, Bell and Hot Peppers, Cucumbers, Potatoes, Carrots, Radish, Green Onion, Eggplant, Cantaloupe, Fennel, Lettuce, Celery, Turnip, Pumpkin and Green Beans). Fry Family Farm grows vegetable plant starts for wholesale and retail markets, they generously donate 100s of plants each spring that RVF2S shares with the 26 school gardens they are supporting.
Fry Family Farm welcomes RVF2S to host their on-farm education programs at their farm, exposing students to a working farm growing food for their community.
For more information on this program or about these producers, please call Amy Gilroy at 503-872-6600 at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.