Oxy Nets $2.34 Million Food Grant
Building on previous success in several states, a $2.34 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will make it possible for the Center for Food and Justice at Occidental College to establish and coordinate – in collaboration with the Community Food Security Coalition – the National Farm to School Network.
The effort will link local farmers with school cafeterias across the country, improving student nutrition while giving small farmers access to a multi-billion dollar market.
The award is the second major gift to Occidental from the foundation. In 2002, the college received a $691,000 grant to develop farm to school programs throughout California. That award built on a $2 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant in 2000, in which Occidental headed a national consortium of universities, school districts and nonprofit groups to develop farm to school programs in California, New Jersey and New York.
“The last decade has seen a rapid expansion in the farm to school movement,” said Robert Gottlieb, Henry R. Luce Professor of Urban Environmental Studies at Occidental and director of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute, which oversees the Center for Food and Justice. “From a handful of programs in the late 1990s, today there are more than 1,000 farm to school programs in 35 states that incorporate nutrition education in the classroom and help influence the dietary choices of children.”
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. At the same time, family farming in the United States is facing its own crisis, with less than 2 percent of the population involved in the profession. Initial evaluations have shown that farm to school can be an effective strategy to increase school meal participation rates and student consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as enhance farm income and usher diversification into institutional markets, said Anupama Joshi, director of the National Farm to School Program.
The National Farm to School Network will focus on five key areas – policy, networking, media and marketing, information services and training, and technical assistance – to support the farm to school movement. Support for the network is timely. This year, Congress is preparing to enact the Farm Bill, a critical piece of food and farm legislation that will impact what crops are grown on farms, and what food is made available to schools and homes.