December 08, 2014

Oregon Selected for Pilot Program Helping Schools and Farmers

Wyden introduced the program supporting schools’ efforts to procure more local fruits and vegetables

Washington, DC – Oregon Senator Ron Wyden today announced that Oregon has been chosen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as one of eight states in a pilot project that will allow them to increase purchases of locally-grown fruits and vegetables for their school meal programs.

The Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables, was introduced by Senator Wyden as an amendment to the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill.

“Today’s news is a win for communities and school districts across Oregon who can now offer meals made with the locally grown produce we’re famous for, from apples to zucchini, blueberries to tomatoes and everything in between,” Senator Wyden said. “This is a win for the local farmers who will gain new customers to buy their fruits and vegetables. And this is a win for the school children who will grow up knowing what fresh produce really tastes like.”

USDA Foods – provided by the USDA to schools – make up about 20 percent of the foods served in schools.  States use their USDA Foods allocation to select items from a list of 180 products including fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry, rice, low fat cheese, beans, pasta, flour and other whole grain products.  This pilot program will allow the selected states to use some of their USDA Foods allocation to buy unprocessed fruits and vegetables directly, instead of going through the USDA Foods program.

“These demonstration projects will help schools source healthy, local fruits and vegetables for the breakfasts, lunches, or snacks served to students,” Wyden said. “It is more important today than ever to ensure America’s children have fresh, healthy eating options when they are increasingly exposed to unhealthy, processed foods.” 

States were selected based on their demonstrated commitment to farm-to-school efforts, including prior efforts to increase and promote farm-to-school programs in the state, the quantity and variety of growers of local fruits and vegetables in the state on a per capita basis, and the degree to which the state contains a sufficient quantity of local educational agencies of various population sizes and geographic locations. 

Oregon farmers and school officials said the pilot project will grow the existing relationships between farmers and schools, with children being the ultimate beneficiaries.

“I’m thrilled Oregon has been chosen because it will help our schools continue to diversify their local foods purchasing portfolio,” said Michelle Ratcliffe, PhD, Director of Market Development for Farm to Table Initiatives at Truitt Family Foods. “The happy result is that the pilot will help Oregon's students to achieve, farmers to prosper and communities to thrive.”

Other states chosen for the pilot besides Oregon are California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin. For more information about USDA’s efforts, go here.

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Hank Stern, 503-326-7539