Local Food for Local Schools: How One School District is Delivering Healthy Food to Students

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To flourish in the classroom, kids need to maintain a healthy diet. That’s a fact. Considering 46% of Oregon children are receiving free or reduced meals at school, it’s vital that we’re giving these students food that is nutritional so they can function at their absolute best.

To help improve students’ overall nutrition, reduce childhood hunger, and prevent obesity among children, many schools are adopting Farm to School programs.  At its core, Farm to School is about establishing relationships between local farms and K-12 school aged children.  By giving children access to healthy food, while simultaneously benefiting communities and local farmers, Farm to School is a win-win for all.

Benefits of Farm to SchoolThe Bethel School district in Eugene, Oregon has dedicated itself to ensuring that its students be given access to fresh fruits and vegetables that are grown locally. Best of all, they have access to them year round.

Bethel’s Farm to School efforts started small. In 2008, Nutrition Services Director, Jennie Kolpak, RD, bought local apples for the school lunch program. That same year, the District (which serves 5,700 students annually) was awarded a grant to fund an educational component of Farm to School. By 2009, Bethel had started a 10-week educational component for second and third graders in two elementary schools. The program was innovative, and it made a direct impact on the health of those students.

30% of Bethel’s produce is procured locally by farm producers and distributors.  Students enjoy local apples, berries, carrots, corn, green beans, lettuce, potatoes, milk and eggs, and seven of Bethel’s eleven schools have a school garden. Bethel’s Willamette High School even has a centralized bakery that uses locally grown and milled flour in their baked goods.

So, what’s next for Bethel School District?  They hope to expand their Farm to School education efforts to all schools in the District, and are considering a “Boat to School” program that would allow them to utilize locally caught seafood in their school lunch program.

We’re so thankful for innovative thinkers like the great people working for Bethel. Farm to School is an important way to keep our kids eating well. We’d love to know, what local efforts have you heard of that are driving behavior change in your community?

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4 Comments

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  1. Congratulations to the Healthy Life Essay Contest Winner | Million Ideas
  2. Bethel’s Healthy Food Habits Featured by Pacific Source | Colt’s Blog

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