Farm to school efforts aren't limited to fruits & vegetables
Dane Rauschenberg runs the entire Oregon coast for beef.
Oregon's farm to school efforts are beefing up this week with the help of an extreme endurance athlete running all 350 miles of the coast
. Strategic stops at various schools along the Oregon coast are designed to extol the virtues of lean beef as a quality source of protein and other nutrients. With kids listening and sampling products, Oregon's beef producers hope to clear a path into the cafeterias as part of the farm to school program.
"We are lucky to have Oregon's diversified agricultural commodities finding their way onto kids' lunch trays," says Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba. "Several commodity commissions are striking up great partnerships to bring more of the state's agricultural bounty to Oregon schools. I think that's outstanding."
The current effort involves Dane Rauschenberg, an extreme athlete, motivational speaker, and author who is an advocate of lean beef and its positive impact on athletes of all types. Rauschenberg is spending an entire week running the full length of the Oregon coast averaging about 50 miles a day, hoping to become the first person known to run the coastline from California to Washington in just seven days. Stopping at four coastal high schools along the way- and returning to Portland April 9 to visit a fifth high school, Rauschenberg is sending a healthy message to kids.
"We want students to have an awareness that good nutrition is important to athletes, whether it is an endurance runner, a football player, or someone just starting up a walking program," says Will Wise, executive director of the Oregon Beef Council
, which is sponsoring the event along with its counterparts in Washington, Idaho, and California, and the Federation of State Beef Councils, a division of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
Rauschenberg's audiences along the coast vary from high school track teams to entire high school student bodies, and has included high school health classes. Students in Gold Beach, Bandon, Lincoln City, and Tillamook are the ones getting the message during the 350 mile marathon.
"During the school assembly at Gold Beach High School, we gave away beef jerky and explained that it was a good recovery food following endurance sports," says Wise.
Track teams from Newport and Taft high schools will join Rauschenberg later this week on a run through Lincoln City as Painted Hills Natural Beef of Fossil does in-store product demonstrations and sampling at two local IGA stores. On the weekend, an eight team track meet at Tillamook High School provides a great opportunity to continue the beef promotion. Following the track meet, the local community food organization Food Roots
is preparing and offering Oregon beef chili to everyone in attendance and will provide recipes and information about Tillamook County's own beef producers.
"We are excited to bring this event to our community and give folks in Tillamook a taste of local foods," says Shelly Bowe, executive director of Food Roots. "Highlighting a lean, healthy product that happens to be one of Oregon's top food commodities is something we have been anxious to do."
Organizing the Tillamook portion of the event has involved Emily Ritchie, one of four Oregon members of FoodCorps- a national organization with pilot programs in ten states. Ritchie and the other FoodCorps service members in Oregon have been active in efforts that support procuring and promoting Oregon agricultural products into schools while teaching young people about healthy eating and where their food comes from.
The final stop for Rauschenberg and the week long beef promotion is inland from the coast- Portland's Franklin High School on Monday, April 9. The school will host a "recovery run" where the track team and other students and staff can join in a few laps around the track before being treated to black bean chili made with Oregon beef.
The beef message is also being delivered to school administrators with the hopes that Oregon beef products will find their way onto the school lunch menu as a great source of protein and part of a balanced diet.
The promotion is one of many that increasingly get kids more connected to farms and ranches in Oregon.
"The farm to school effort is maturing in Oregon," says Michelle Markesteyn Ratcliffe, manager of ODA's Farm to School Program. "It's not just about fresh fruits and vegetables that are locally grown, but now includes processed fruits and vegetables and protein sources that include beef, dairy, seafood, and poultry. We hope Dan's run up the coast helps to get kids excited about eating beef. In many districts across the state, schools are buying Oregon beef and serving it as part of the main entrée at lunch. The kids love it."
A key component of farm to school is classroom education. Teaching kids about Oregon agriculture and the source of their food- along with the value of a healthy diet- is considered just as important as providing the local foods themselves. As one of the state's 23 commodity commissions, the Oregon Beef Council is taking advantage of opportunities to connect in the classroom, but other organizations are too. The Oregon Dairy Council is heavily involved with nutrition education and promotion of products through such activities as field trips to dairies. The Oregon Cattlemen's Association is working to bring ranchers into the classroom to talk about life on the range. The Oregon Trawl Commission is working on a "boat-to-school" pilot program that parallels the efforts of farm to school.
Oregon's farm to school program is becoming institutionalized, according to Ratcliffe.
"In the last couple of years, we've gone from a handful of schools being involved to 90 of our 189 districts serving Oregon agricultural products," she says. "Those 90 school districts represent about 70 percent of all Oregon students who are being served local foods."
All in all, there is plenty of momentum on all sides. School food buyers want to purchase more Oregon foods. Teachers are increasingly wanting to provide instruction on Oregon agriculture. Farmers and ranchers are making the effort to tap into schools. The latest beef promotion won't be the last for Oregon agriculture.
For more information, contact Michelle Markesteyn Ratcliffe at (503) 872-6600. Story of the Week pdf version
http://oregon.gov/ODA/docs/pdf/news/120404beef_promotion.pdf Audio Story of the Week