We live near an elementary school where more than 40 percent of the students receive free or reduced-price meals. These meals may be the main, if not the only, meals the students get all day, and it stands to reason that the food they're served should be healthy and nutritious.
In an agriculturally rich state like Oregon, you'd think that the meals served in school cafeterias would have at least some local or regional ingredients. But because of inadequate kitchens (ripped out decades ago to facilitate central distribution), regulatory and economic roadblocks and a lack of distribution channels for local producers, these meals are often comprised of commodity products.
One way to get more fresh, local food onto cafeteria trays is to create a vibrant farm to school network of farmers, teachers, students and administrators. On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Friends of Family Farmers is conducting a panel discussion on how to bridge the gap between local farms and the school system so that our kids can have healthier meals, with the added benefit of helping to stabilize Oregon's agricultural community.
Panelists for the event are:
- David Knaus is a grower, teacher and consultant for progressive agricultural methods in the Pacific Northwest. He is currently the Farm Manager for CREST Farm, a unique farm to school program in West Linn-Wilsonville that educates K-12 students in Biological Agriculture techniques and delivers produce to school cafeterias within the district.
- Nell Tessman works as a Health Educator in Multnomah County Health Department's Community Wellness and Prevention Program and is a member of the Healthy Active Schools Team, working with seven school districts in Multnomah County on farm to school initiatives that support healthy eating and physical activity in schools. Nell also grows kale, lemon cucumbers and quackgrass in her community garden plot.
- Linda Colwell is a chef, works on a farm and is interested seeing children develop an understanding of food, farming, agriculture and the rural/urban relationship. Linda sits on the Portland Public Schools Wellness Advisory Committee, serves on the board of directors of Zenger Farm and is currently writing a farm-to-school curriculum for K-12 schools.