Oregon school food makes progress, room to grow

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Oregon school food makes progress, room to grow

5:41 p.m. PDT October 14, 2015

“Oregon is making progress at ensuring all kids are getting the nutrition they need in K-12 public schools, but there is still much room for improvement.”

That is the conclusion reached in Oregon’s Healthy School Food Report Card, released Wednesday by Upstream Public Health, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and the American Heart Association.

The report was designed to help parents, school administrators and legislators understand where Oregon stands in feeding better food to kids, and where the state is still falling behind.

Experts said that providing kids with healthy and delicious food in school is critical for their success.

“Hunger and poor nutrition have a direct and negative impact on children’s ability to learn, and hunger contributes to Oregon’s persistent achievement gap,” said a recent press release sent out by the reporting organizations.

More than half of Oregon students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, and in many cases school meals provide the majority of the daily calories and nutrition those kids receive.

“A student who eats healthy meals at school doesn’t just stave off hunger — they do better in the classroom,” says Patti Whitney-Wise, executive director of Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon. “Oregon schools are doing a great job at things like offering breakfast programs for students, but we still have a lot more work to do to ensure every student has access to healthy food.”

The report said Oregon:

  • Allocated $4.5 million in state funding to the Farm to School and School Garden programs
  • Gave all school districts extra money to buy and serve local food
  • Has 95 percent of schools offering breakfast to students
  • Has an additional 30,000 students from low-income families with access to free breakfast and lunch.

“Oregon has done a lot to improve the nutritional quality of foods in schools,” says Mel Rader, executive director of Upstream Public Health.

“With the release of this report card, we are calling on legislators and school administrators to keep working until only healthy foods are served or promoted at Oregon schools, and to ensure that all kids get the nutrition they need to thrive.”

The report also highlighted where the state can improve, such as establishing rules to limit in-school marketing of junk food to children, doing more to promote school breakfast programs, and increasing access to chilled and filtered drinking water.

The Oregon’s Healthy School Food Report Card is a joint effort of Upstream Public Health, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and the American Heart Association.

npate@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate

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