Potential for Public Health Impact
Farm to school and school garden activities in Oregon are designed to reach all primary and secondary school children, either through the school meal programs, school garden activities, school wellness policies, and/or other food-related educational activities.
Reach: This intervention has the potential to reach all primary and secondary school children if every school adopts a farm to school program and/or a school garden. In Oregon, 280,244 children eat school lunch every day, and 130,546 eat school breakfast every day (50% of whom qualify for USDA’s free or reduced meal program). The intervention has the potential to directly provide healthier foods to these children.
Effectiveness: The evidence of effectiveness is emerging for this intervention. Evaluation is an important part of any program, and ongoing strategies are in place for the Farm to School and School Garden coordinators to collect process and outcome data that can be used to ascertain whether the program is having a positive effect on school children and Oregon farmers.
Adoption: As of 2010, 90 (out of 187) school districts were purchasing Oregon grown foods for their school meal programs. As of 2007, there were 161 school gardens in Oregon. Given the support and promotion provided by the coordinators and their partners, it is reasonable to expect the number of schools purchasing Oregon grown foods (as well as the volume, diversity, and frequency of Oregon grown foods) and starting school gardens will continue to increase.
Implementation: Farm to School and School Garden coordinators have begun to track school gardens and farm to school programs and collect data through surveys, participating in pilot studies, and working with the USDA and CDC to identify opportunities to institutionalize process and outcome data collection. The coordinators have attended and hosted many meetings, trainings, and workshops as well as responded to hundreds of information and technical assistance inquiries.
Maintenance: Because farm to school strategies address procurement barriers and engender new relationships between school food buyers and food producers, the impacts are largely self-sustaining. In addition, school nutrition service personnel tend to stay in their current positions, and, if they move, they tend to acquire similar positions in school food nutrition services. Because the coordinators are responsible for building the infrastructure linking schools and producers by establishing distribution systems and integrating farm to school programs with school wellness policies, it is likely that the program benefits will be maintained.
School garden strategies are more difficult to maintain over time. School must have the space and ability to maintain a garden. Volunteers are generally needed to maintain gardens during the summer months when schools are not in session.
Maintenance of the two agency positions is dependent on state funding and is re-considered as part of each agency’s biannual budget process.