Project aims to link local growers to school cafeterias

Klamath County School District awarded $96,000 Farm to School grant; partners with OSU-KBREC

Jordan Rainwater was hired as Klamath County School District’s Farm to School project coordinator. She will work closely with project manager Patty Case of the OSU-Klamath Basin Research & Extension Service. The first general Farm to School training for growers and educators is Nov. 6.

Jordan Rainwater was hired as Klamath County School District’s Farm to School project coordinator. She will work closely with project manager Patty Case of the OSU-Klamath Basin Research & Extension Service. The first general Farm to School training for growers and educators is Nov. 6.

Expect to see more fresh produce and locally grown food in Klamath County School District cafeterias.

The school district, in partnership with Oregon State University-Klamath Basin Research & Extension Service, has been awarded a competitive $96,538 USDA implementation grant for its Farm-to-School program. The goal of the two-year project is to strengthen the supply chain with area farmers and producers so more students can experience locally grown foods in their school cafeterias.

The school district’s Farm to School project was one of 126 selected nationwide and is built on strong community partnerships. In addition to local growers, KCSD will partner with Blue Zones, Oregon Department of Agriculture, FFA, and Summer Lunch Program to provide training, technical support and supplies to address the unique needs of a public school district food program.

Patty Case of OSU-Klamath Basin Research & Extension Service will be the Farm to School project manager. Jordan Rainwater was hired by the school district last month as the program’s project coordinator.

As an owner and operator of a small farm for 14 years, Rainwater understands the complexities of growing and distributing local foods in the Basin.

“Food is the foundation of a community, and agriculture is how we get our food,” she said. “Farming is a real challenge. This project will not only get locally grown food into our schools, but has the potential to help small, local farmers become more successful and sustainable by developing a stable market for their product."

Rainwater, who has a degree in horticulture, has two school-age children, ages 6 and 9. “As I mom, I also want to see fresh, healthy options in our schools,” she said.

Case, who has coordinated Farm to School Education programs for more than five years, sees the impact.

“It’s clear when youth know where their food comes from or participate in its production, they’re more likely to eat it,” Case said. “This grant will help growers, food service workers, and distributors better connect to overcome inherent barriers in getting those products on the cafeteria line.”

The first general training on Farm to School for educators and farm to school supporters will be from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Nov. 6 at OSU-Klamath Basin Research & Extension Center. For more information or to register for this free event, contact Patty Case or Jordan Rainwater at 541-883-7131 or sign up online at https://forms.gle/DZYtLn6oVfKtnwMV8.

The Klamath Farmer’s Online Marketplace, which represents local farmers and producers, is among community partners interested in developing a system to help provide products to schools.

“There is a need to connect the large-scale growers with local institutional buyers as well as build capacity among the smaller growers who have outgrown the weekend farmer’s market,” said Katie Swanson, chair of the Klamath Farmer’s Online Marketplace, in a letter supporting the Farm-to-School grant proposal. Swanson is serving on the district’s Farm-to-School Advisory Committee.

KCSD also this year has partnered with OSU-Klamath Basin Research & Extension Center to support a Food Corps Service member at two elementary schools. Anna Barlowe is working at Shasta and Henley elementaries to support hands-on, food-based learning. Sky Lakes Wellness Center is paying the $7,500 required to host a Food Corps member and OSU Extension is supervising that program.

Glen Szymoniak, superintendent of the Klamath County School District, said the grant project and the Food Corps Service program are great opportunities to expand access of locally grown foods to the district’s 6,800 students.

“This project will be an important part of the web of food access, education and economic opportunity in Klamath County,” he said. “Everybody wins with Farm to School.”