by Kiah Easton

The lunch served at Portland Public School (PPS) in Oregon pictured here is “a typical meal of homemade pizza with whole-wheat crust (made from wheat harvested by Shepherd’s Grain cooperative in Washington State)…” This school district exemplifies the change that is attainable in public school food across the United States.

By both working with and supporting local farmers, PPS is able to bolster local food supply chains, support communities’ access to healthy, nutritious food and reduce seven harmful ingredients often found in school food. As noted in the Bon Appetit Magazine article “At These Public Schools, Cafeteria Food Is Healthy, Tasty—and Locavore”, PPS also launched Harvest of the Month in 2007, a program that includes local grains and features a locally grown fruit or vegetable in school lunches twice a month.

Shepherd’s Grain was founded in 2003 to “promote no-till, direct-seed farming” in order to “ renew and preserve the land for generations to come.” The partnership between Shepherd’s Grain and PPS proves that local grain farmers and mills can be part of the farm-to-school movement, which has mostly focused on local fruits and vegetables.

The program demonstrates how school systems across the US can follow this example and bring delicious and nourishing local whole grain to students while fostering independent and diverse regional food systems. In their mission statement, the PPS Nutrition Service goal is “to educate palates, inspire culinary curiosity and nourish the health of the community through school meals. The [PPS] Nutrition Service program is committed to serving delicious, nutrient-rich meals featuring whole foods.”