Sometimes it’s hard to see what’s right in front of you. For many individuals and institutions, the problem with switching to local food purchases isn’t that people are unwilling or unenthusiastic, it’s that many just don’t know where to look. With our daily lives moving at breakneck speed amidst a flurry of tweets, emails, and texts, we often find ourselves paying more attention to the screens in front of us than the world in which we live. Organizations around the country are taking advantage of this period of technological innovation by developing virtual tools to help open our eyes to the bounty of our local food systems.
One such organization is Ecotrust based in Portland, Ore. Two years ago, they launched FoodHub, a social networking tool that revitalizes regional agriculture by helping farmers and buyers find one another online, often in a matter of minutes. Read more
Deborah Kane is the Vice President of Food and Farms for Ecotrust, a Portland, Oregon-based conservation and economic development group that has their hands in a variety of powerful pots including a USDA-backed online service called FoodHub that helps connect farms of every size with schools, hospitals, caterers, restaurants, and distributors. Deborah is also the publisher of Edible Portland. She was invited to the White House a few weeks ago to brief President Obama on FoodHub, which she hopes will go national next year.
What issues have you been focused on?
I’m very focused on connecting producers to domestic markets. Read more
It’s a big day for the farm to school movement. At the 2011 School Nutrition Association national convention in Nashville today, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced a comprehensive, groundbreaking report on the current state of farm to school efforts around the country. Download the full report here.
The data in the report was complied by the USDA Farm to School Team (comprised of both Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) staff), which made visits to 15 school districts (over what time frame) in a wide range of states. Merrigan spoke with Civil Eats earlier today about the findings and how it might shape the farm to school landscape of the future. Read more
One year ago this week, the Obama administration launched Let’s Move, an initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. It’s an ambitious–but critically important–goal.
In the last 30 years, the percentage of American children who are overweight or obese has tripled. Diet-related disease, diminished academic performance and a shortened life expectancy threaten the future of our kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three American children born in the year 2000 is on a path toward Type II diabetes. Among children of color, the figure approaches one in two. Retired Generals describe a coming crisis of national security: already, 27 percent of 17-24 year olds are ineligible for military service because of excess body fat.
This administration has placed a strong emphasis on healthy futures for our children, and rightly so: America’s sweeping epidemic of childhood obesity requires us to martial a national response. Read more
A new service program promises to recruit an army of volunteers to help transform school food and, perhaps, groom a new generation of farmers.
Over the last three years, I have received thousands of emails, calls, letters, and in person requests from around the country reiterating the same query: “I love the concept of Farm to School programs, but how do I get started in my community’s school? Our budgets are tight and we just don’t have the sweat equity and the labor to pull it off.”
Normally, I answer by walking through the steps of starting a program and briefly assessing the situation in the school environment: do they have a working kitchen? Are there local farmers interested in selling to the school? Is the Food Service Director on board with incorporating fresh, local product? And so on.
But this time, I can excitedly add to my answer, “Have you heard of FoodCorps?” Read more
Debra is one of the founders of FoodCorps and the Communications and Outreach Director of the National Farm to School Network, which is a program of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. Debra is also an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Food and Society Fellow. Debra’s previous non-profit work spans the globe in the humanitarian, conservation, sustainable agriculture, and food justice realms. She works from her fifth-generation family farm in Ohio, where she continues her passion for organic farming raising fruits and vegetables.
CE: What issues have you been focused on?
DE: It ranges from food policy, Farm to School, school gardens, school food, rural sociology, obesity, dairy policy, commodity policy, food justice… basically from seed to stomach. The whole gamut.
CE: What inspires you to do this work?
DE: I am a dairy farmer’s daughter and given that there are fewer than 60,000 dairy farmers in the United States, not many people can really understand what that means. But, I grew up with a dairy chip on my shoulder, watching how working for this food system is hard work and when you see that it’s broken even after all of that hard work, that’s frustrating. Read more
James Johnson-Piett is responsible for the overall management of operations and strategic vision for Urbane Development, a community and economic development firm based in Philadelphia. He specializes in neighborhood scale development and the revitalization of urban commercial and retail amenities. His work focuses on strengthening neighborhood commercial and retail enterprises by providing services and expertise that infuses principles of social entrepreneurship, sustainability, and technical acumen into the core of his client’s operations. He serves as Treasurer on the Board of Directors of the Community Food Security Coalition, is a co-convener of the Healthy Corner Stores Network, and a member of the Philadelphia Development Partnership’s Young Entrepreneur’s Advisory Board. James is an alumnus of Swarthmore College with a B.A. in Political Science and Environmental Studies. I sat down with James to ask him a few questions last week for our new series, Faces & Visions of the Food Movement. Read more
With one in three children (and one in two children of color) overweight or obese in this country, the health of America’s kids is under the microscope and, for the first time in our history, children born now will not live as long as their parents. Michelle Obama has launched her Let’s Move campaign, and chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution brought the school cafeteria to television. But as Oliver’s program showed, one of the biggest barriers to changing kids’ health outcomes is a lack of dedicated labor and expertise.
That is where FoodCorps comes in, an AmeriCorps program that would put service members to work building school gardens and establishing farm-to-school relationships in towns across the United States, specifically in places lacking regular access to fresh produce. A collaboration between the National Farm to School Network, Slow Food USA and other groups, the FoodCorps team has raised more than $215,000 from the Kellogg Foundation and AmeriCorps to develop the program, which could begin as early as 2011. Read more
For years I have been saying that it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to support Farm to School because of its common sense solution to serving local high quality food in schools and connecting children to where food comes from, but lo and behold, it does!
U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (NJ-12), an actual rocket scientist and five-time Jeopardy winner, has introduced legislation that would create a Farm to School grant program to fight childhood obesity and support local farmers.
“Farm to school programs exemplify the best use of federal school lunch dollars,” Holt said. “This is a rare opportunity for a win-win solution– a program to ensure our children get the best quality food at school, help foster local farm job growth, and create local economic growth.” Read more
As I entered the gymnasium of Lakeview Union School for Harvest Dinner, students buzzed busily around tables piled with plates of food – quinoa salad, beet and apple salad, pita bread, local Jasper Hill Farm cheese, turkey, squash, corn and mashed potatoes. Many are dishes that these students made themselves in the classroom using local ingredients, and most of the rest was grown in the school garden. A third-grader takes a bite of the pita bread made by the fourth graders and chews thoughtfully. Then he checks a box underneath a smiling face that proclaims, “I liked it!” Read more