Whether fresh berries or snappy green beans, children at Oregon preschools are tasting more local food bounty this summer than ever before. That’s because the local environmental organization Ecotrust has launched a new phase of its Farm to Preschool program, strengthening connections between preschool-aged children and healthy, local foods.
According to Stacey Sobell, Farm to School Manager at Ecotrust, Oregon’s state farm to school and school garden grants were “only available to K-12 school districts, and something similar was needed for early care settings. We know from our experience working at the K-12 level that a small amount of start-up funding, accompanied by access to resources and technical assistance, can really jump-start a movement.”
Early childcare and education (ECE) providers of all kinds were invited to apply for mini-grants ranging from $500-$2,000 to support new or expanding farm to preschool projects. By connecting care providers and educators with local farmers, ranchers, fishermen and food processors, preschoolers have greater access to healthy local foods, and may learn more about where their foods come from.
Along with seed funding, the program provides technical assistance and facilitates peer-to-peer learning for a network of ECE providers.
Farm to preschool is one piece of Ecotrust’s larger efforts to connect big buyers (schools, preschools, hospitals, universities, and other institutions) with local food, boost mid-sized farms to supply these institutional markets, and address gaps in infrastructure and distribution, so that food can move efficiently from grower to market. Such programs have shown myriad benefits: fostering healthy eating habits, improving academic achievement, and increasing school meal participation and food service staff morale, as well as stimulating local economies through new market opportunities for food providers.
Read more about Ecotrust leadership in the farm to school movement.
Note: Each July Ecotrust presents the Sundown Concert Series featuring local artists and an Innovators Showcase exhibition. If you attend the final concert Thursday night, July 31 – featuring Alela Diane and Lost Lander – visit the PRP.FM booth to learn more about our commercial-free, locally curated music stream.
Each Sundown concert has a theme related to human reliance on resources, such as energy, water and forestry – themes of the first three weeks respectively. Thursday night’s theme is food, sponsored by Food Front Cooperative Grocery.