Oregon Grown Produce at a School Near You

Author: Deanna Lloyd, Farm-to-Institution Manager, Corvallis Environmental Center

Publish Date: Summer 2015

Voices reverberate off the shiny industrial kitchenware as locally grown rhubarb, fresh from grower Patrick Long, is chopped into chunks. At Corvallis School District’s central kitchen locally-grown rhubarb is being turned into a cobbler that will be served to over 3,500 students as part of the District’s monthly Tasting Table program. And the students will devour it.

Oregon students are being introduced to locally-grown foods through “Harvest of the Month” programs like Corvallis’ that are part of the farm-to-school programs growing across the state. Each month of the school year, a different Oregon-grown “harvest” is featured. Items may be served as a sample during a “tasting table,” featured in a special “local lunch” or incorporated multiple times in various cafeteria meals throughout the month.

Though Farm to School programs look a bit different in each district, a goal of all the programs is to get more Oregon grown foods into Oregon schools, creating new market opportunities for local farmers.

Schools are increasingly asking their distributers to source from Oregon growers, and can cite geographical preference as part of their bid. Many schools now purchase more of their Oregon-grown products direct from farmers. New USDA regulations have eased the purchasing process for schools, which now have the freedom to make any purchase under $2,500 without going through a formal bidding process. This change has huge implications for the farm-to-school movement and makes it easier for Oregon farmers to sell direct to schools. While not every school participates in Farm to School activities, if you’re interested in learning more or selling to a school, contact the school district’s food service director to see what options may be available. General information about the state’s Farm to School program is available here: https://oregonfarmtoschool.org/

Corvallis School District’s 2015-2016 “Harvest of the Month” schedule. Each month the school district will focus on incorporating the harvest into their menu. Check-in with your local school district to see if what harvests they’re promoting.