May 15, 2009
By Mitch Lies
SALEM — Farm-to-school backers brought out their big guns Tuesday, May 12, to testify in support of a bill backing local food purchases for school meals.
At a hearing before a Ways and Means subcommittee, backers brought forward a true school-lunch expert—second-grader Zoe Kane.
"I eat school lunch every day," Kane said, "so I am an expert in school lunch."
Kane is a student at Atkinson Elementary School in Portland. Under a pilot project in the Portland and Gervais school districts, lunch purchasers are being reimbursed up to 7 cents per lunch when they buy localy produced food. The project is funded by a grant from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Under a bill lawmakers are considering, the state would dedicate upwards of $20 million in lottery funds to reimburse schools for the extra costs to buy food from local growers.
House Bill 2800 would generate millions of dollars back into the Oregon economy in the form of additional jobs and added revenue to the state's farmers, backers said.
"I really like knowing that the school works with local farmers to make our food," Kane said. "Farmers are really important people. We need farmers to feed us. So, it makes sense to support them when we can."
With the May 15 revenue forecast looming, lawmakers in the Transportation and Economic Development Subcommittee took no action on the bill.