Bethel School District in Bethel, Oregon
In Bethel, Oregon, Farm to School stakeholders strive to build on a wide variety of local resources, including local knowledge, local produce and even local seafood.
On May 25 and 26, 2010, the USDA Farm to School Team visited the Bethel School District (Bethel SD) in Bethel, Oregon, just outside of Eugene. During this visit to learn about their Farm to School efforts, the Team met with the Nutrition Services Director, a number of school administrators, farmers, teachers and community partners.
Bethel SD’s Farm to School activities were first initiated in 2008 when the Nutrition Services Director, Jennie Kolpak, RD, bought local apples for the school lunch program. That same year, the District was awarded a grant to fund an educational component of Farm to School. By 2009, Bethel SD, in partnership with a local nonprofit, had started a 10-week educational component for second and third graders in two elementary schools. Bethel SD also works with their nonprofit partner to lead school kids on field trips to local farms, host “tasting tables” of local foods, and operate a Harvest of the Month activity that highlights one locally grown fruit or vegetable each month which is then served in all of the District’s 11 cafeterias.
Some of Bethel SD’s local purchases include apples, berries, carrots, corn, green beans, lettuce, potatoes, milk and eggs. According to Jennie, currently, approximately 30 percent of Bethel SD’s produce is procured locally. Also, six of the District’s 11 schools have a school garden, and the District’s high school serves locally baked bagels and has a smoothie bar which can utilize locally grown Marion berries.
Bethel SD is currently buying produce from nine local farmers, and has developed a small database of local farmers who are interested in selling to schools. Jennie also relies upon a chart developed by Oregon State University that identifies when local products are available during each month throughout the school year. This has been especially useful in menu planning.
The Bethel SD has put most of their efforts thus far into serving more local foods and in educating students about where food comes from and how it is produced. In the near term, the District would like to increase the volume of local products they purchase each year, ensure that more schools have “tasting tables”, and place Harvest of the Month posters in all classrooms. Bethel SD also hopes to expand its Farm to School education efforts to all schools in the District, and is considering a “boat to school” effort that would allow them to utilize locally caught seafood in their school lunch program.
Taking advantage of local resources is an integral component of Farm to School in Bethel School District. With committed staff and strong partnerships, they are on a path to continued success. Jennie’s tips for initiating Farm to School efforts include start small, begin with the most enthusiastic schools first, and engage community partners.