We undertook this study to measure the reach of Oregon’s legislated farm-to-school grant program among school districts and children, particularly low income, and examine changes in local purchasing, particularly fruit and vegetables, and the use of produce from school gardens in school meals. We conducted descriptive analyses to examine the reach and paired two-sample t-tests to examine average purchases of local products between school year 2014–2015 (baseline) and 2015–2016 (intervention). The study results indicate that the number of nonwhite students attending a district participating in farm-to-school nearly doubled in the intervention, and 89% of children eligible for free and reduced-price meals attended schools in participating districts compared with 39% of eligible children at baseline. Eighty-one percent of participating districts were low income, which is much higher than the percentage of districts characterized as low income statewide (65%). The policy also increased the average total local food purchases for low-income districts, particularly fruits and vegetables. The results suggest that the opt-in approach to the grant program facilitated greater participation from low-income districts that may otherwise have not accessed the grant program. Oregon’s policy approach of designating funds for procurement and/or education grants (versus generic farm-to-school grants to be used at the discretion of the district) enabled the prioritization of these activities in grantee districts. Future research can help develop a more thorough understanding of the long-term impacts of Oregon’s farm-to-school policy on children’s health outcomes and on other intended outcomes on farmers and the local economy.
Farm-to-school grant funding increases children’s access to local fruits and vegetables in Oregon