In Oregon-a state both overweight and underfed-fat kids are a hot political topic, as Salem legislators weigh (yes, Pun Hell awaits) bills banning junk food and requiring Phys Ed. But in Portland, there's a broader solution growing: to replace ye olde mass-produced tater tot with local, organic produce.
Kids at seven Portland public schools are tending small gardens with help from a Portland State University food-ecology project. And school-board and city officials also hope to turn 13 acres near Southeast Portland's Lane Middle School into an "urban education farm."
PSU professor Dilafruz Williams, a Portland Public Schools board member, says she thinks $150,000 would be enough to get such a garden going. She recently visited legendary chef Alice Waters' schoolyard garden in Berkeley. Williams says any Portland project would probably require a broader funding base than Waters' effort, which relies on a subsidy from the restaurateur's charitable foundation.
City commissioners also must decide whether to fund a feasibility study on a takeover of Portland Public Schools' maintenance and kitchen programs. A city-run commissary could be part of redeveloping the school district's North Portland headquarters, Memorial Coliseum and nearby blocks now occupied by city departments. Commissioner Erik Sten says a dollar figure hasn't developed yet, but he adds that, in a district concerned with declining enrollment and the subsequent loss of state funding, "If you had good, healthy food in schools, that would draw a lot of parents who'd otherwise send their kids elsewhere."
This variety pack of school-food issues-from the humble gardens now sprouting to big-picture change-will be on the table at an 8:30 am public forum on April 30 at Grant High School.