Center for Food and Justice Given $120,000 Grant
Occidental College’s Center for Food and Justice has received a $120,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help develop “farm-to-school” programs throughout the country, an effort to improve children’s health while giving small and medium-sized farms access to a part of the $24 billion food services market.
The grant will allow Occidental to spend the next two years training and offering technical assistance on farm-to-school projects at regional and national workshops. The college will work with the Venice, Calif.-based Community Food Security Coalition to address the more than 75 requests they have received for information on how to develop the innovative projects.
“Already, over 400 farm-to-school programs in 23 states are positively impacting children’s diets and small-farm viability by providing local, healthy farm products to school cafeterias, incorporating nutrition education in the classroom and experimental learning that is influencing the dietary choices of children,” said Robert Gottlieb, Occidental professor of urban and environmental policy and director of the college’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, which oversees the Center for Food and Justice.
Farm-to-school programs play an important role in combating a disturbing trend: the number of overweight school-age children in the United States tripled from 5 percent in 1980 to 15 percent in 2000. New farm-to-cafeteria legislation, recently passed by Congress, provides incentives for schools to participate in a farm-to-school approach. “Farm-to-school represents an impressive win-win solution for small farmers, school-age children, and schools alike,” Gottlieb said.
In September, the Center for Food and Justice and the Community Food Security Coalition launched the National Farm to School Network, a website that serves as a one-stop information resource on farm-to-school programs throughout the United States.
Over the past seven years, the Center for Food and Justice has been a leader in the farm-to-school movement. In 1997, the center was instrumental in launching a farmers’ market fruit and salad bar in the Santa Monica-Malibu School District – a program now found in every school in the district. A UCLA study found that low-income students who participated in salad bar programs increased their daily intake of fruits and vegetables by more than 40 percent.
Backed with a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the center initiated a national farm-to-school program in 2000. A consortium of partners – UC Davis, Rutgers, Cornell, Penn State, the California Department of Education, the Davis Joint Unified School District, the Community Food Security Coalition, and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers – have made substantial progress in developing new programs in California, New Jersey and New York.