USDA Grant Aids Expansion of Charter School's Fresh Food Program

News Details

Posted: October 5, 2012
Focus Areas: Finance & Fundraising
States: Oregon

A charter school in northeastern Oregon has been awarded $24,000 as part of a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant program that will enable the school to expand its use of fresh food and connections with area farms.

The award to North Powder Charter School, a PK-12 with an enrollment of 281, is part of the Department’s $55 million 2012, Specialty Crop Block Grant Program for states that funds 748 initiatives nationwide, according to an October 1, 2012 USDA announcement.

The school has received three specialty crop grants totaling about $70,000 to support its produce program, which began with a school garden, according to school officials. Grants have paid to hire a garden coordinator, buy supplies, and pay students for garden work.

Superintendent Lance Dixon said in an interview with the National Charter School Resource Center that more students are eating more school meals as the menu has shifted from prepackaged items to food prepared from scratch in its own kitchen.

The most recent grant enabled the school to acquire a 7-drawer convection steamer that will boost capacity to process and preserve produce. In addition to supporting instruction programs for students, the grant will cover staff time and mileage expenses to forge connections with area farmers. Other schools might benefit, since program coordinators are working to develop a hub in the area to serve as a common drop-off site for produce trucks.

 Photo Credit: Provided by Vicky Brown

Head Cook and Garden Coordinator Vicky Brown oversees the garden through the summer and is assisted by five students and members of the community.

Photo Credit: Provided by Vicky Brown

“We have to hold on to the heirloom activities that our grandparents knew how to do in their everyday life,” Brown said.