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Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Policy Approach


Main Policy Components  

It was the intention of advocates and stakeholders that both agencies be involved in farm to school and school garden activities in Oregon.  Positions in both agencies create a common platform and an opportunity for coordination of efforts.  Because the two agencies have separate functions (the Oregon Department of Agriculture is food supply, farmers and business development, whereas the Oregon Department of Education is school food service and schools), this common platform from which to work is critical for expanding farm to school and school garden efforts.

For states where two coordinator positions may not be financially possible, one coordinator should establish a collaborative relationship with the other department and identify a key contact in that department with whom to work to accomplish the goals of the program.

Examples of primary state agency activities include:

  • Providing information services on why and how to integrate farm to school and school garden projects into school wellness policies.

  • Providing training and technical assistance to school districts and partner organizations on how to use and promote locally grown foods and establish and maintain school gardens.

  • Supporting effective local, regional, statewide, and national public-private partnerships by facilitating and participating in such relationships.

  • Building market relationships between food producers and school food services and actively establishing meetings with producers, processors and buyers to create procurement and distribution systems.

  • Pursuing media and communications to promote farm to school and school gardens.

  • Identifying opportunities and addressing barriers in production, procurement, promotion, distribution, and education.  For example, actively conducting meetings with potential suppliers and buyers and creating a statewide Harvest of the Month campaign.

  • Conducting research and evaluation assessing the effects of Farm to School and school gardens on food producers, distributors, schools, and children.

Coordination and collaboration between two state agencies may be challenging, as differences exist in each agency’s culture, priorities, budget, funding sources, project cycles, and strategies for reaching primary audiences.  As such, it may take time to coordinate agency activities.  Further, as farm to school and school garden programs mature, the need increases for coordination with other state agencies such as public health and Cooperative Extension.

Main Advocacy Components

Passing a bill

  • Build a broad base of support for systemic policy approaches to address obesity. Advocates found traction and broad-based support for the farm to school and school garden policy concepts by framing the approach as a win-win for children’s health, the economy, and the environment.  Advocates identified and organized campaigns around farm to school and school garden programs’ potential to:

    • Increase children’s participation in the school meals program and consumption of fruits and vegetables, thereby improving childhood nutrition, reducing hunger, and preventing obesity and obesity-related diseases1,2,3.

    • Improve children’s knowledge about and attitudes toward agriculture, food, nutrition, and the environment4,5.

    • Support economic development across numerous economic sectors and promote job creation6,7.

    • Increase market opportunities for farmers, fishers, ranchers, food processors, and food manufacturers6,7.

    • Decrease the distance between producers and consumers, thus promoting food security while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and reliance on oil.

  • Conduct formative work

    • Literature reviews, needs assessments, piloting policy concepts and primary data collection are all necessary to build an evidence base for policy concept development and support for policy enactment.
  • Maintain a transparent communication strategy and ensure that information is kept current.

    • Create a common, web-based space that is open to the public where stakeholders can communicate, share documents, and respond quickly while pursuing a legislative agenda.
  • Identify a statehouse liaison during the legislative session.

    • This person should recruit legislative champions and develop strategies for media and press releases.
  • Create consistent messaging and imaging of the policy approach. 

    • Invest in a designer for promotional and marketing materials.  Develop one unified look and consistent top line messages.
  • Develop multiple legislative options.

    • Develop multiple contingency plans for the various amounts of funding or opportunities that legislators may use to counter your proposed bill, especially proposals with less than ideal funding amounts.  Determine what or how much can be compromised long before offers are made.
    • Proactively develop language for the policy, so that it is ready when legislators ask for it.
    • Monitor the bill’s progress; be proactive and involved in the process from concept inception to policy implementation and monitoring.
  • Build coalition capacity.

    • A strong, grassroots farm to school movement  should send a message to legislators that this is an important issue to a variety of stakeholders and that the time is appropriate to advance a policy agenda.

    • Engage all potential stakeholders in the process and acquire endorsements from them.

    • Educate stakeholders on the long term policy goals and celebrate incremental successes; policy work happens over many years.

1 Rainville, A.J. (2001). Nutritional quality of reimbursable school lunches compared to lunches brought from home in elementary schools in two southeastern Michigan districts. The Journal of Child Nutrition & Management, 25 (1), 13-18.

2 Thomas K. Abernethy Scratch Kitchen Model 2005-2006 Baseline Assessment. Report available from: www.ecotrust.org/farmtoschool/Abernethy_Kitchen_Assessment.pdf.

3 Meyers AF, Sampson AE, Weitzman M, Rogers BL, Kayne H: School Breakfast Program and school performance. Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine 1989, 143(10).

4 Liquori T, Koch P, Contento I, Castle J: The Cookshop Program: Outcome Evaluation of a Nutrition Education Program Linking Lunchroom Food Experiences with Classroom Cooking Experiences. Journal of Nutrition Education 1998, 30(5):302-313.

5 McAleese JD, Rankin LL: Garden-Based Nutrition Education Affects Fruit and Vegetable Consumption in Sixth-Grade Adolescents. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2007, 107(4):662-665.

6 Sanger, K., & Zenz, L. (2003). Farm to cafeteria connection: Marketing opportunities for small farms in Washington State. In: Washington State Department of Agriculture Small Farms & Direct Marketing.

7 Ecotrust report