|Vicky Brown works with students to grow food for the cafeteria at North Powder Charter School’s school garden.|
Chuck Lowry has been raising beef cattle for 30 years. And while he has been selling cuts to friends and family from his ranch in Baker City for years, as well as into the conventional market, it didn’t occur to him that there was another local market he was missing out on.
That is until Vicky Brown of North Powder Charter School in North Powder, OR, found Lowry Family Beef on FoodHub. This year, she purchased ground beef and roast, and plans to do it again for the next school year.
“Chuck was very excited to help us out and very proactive in promoting his beef,” she said, “and it is a fabulous product. FoodHub is a great resource for me. I can check out product and communicate with my lap top rather than getting on the phone.”
And while it may be easy to find beef in cattle country, as a recipient of HB 2800 funds, which granted nearly $200,000 to 11 Oregon schools to purchase more Oregon product, Vicky said her school district and others in Eastern Oregon are still struggling to procure other local items and have them distributed to their dispersed locations.
Some distributors do have routes through the area, but many broadliners usually arrive from Boise or Spokane and, according to Vicky who is charged with tracking the provenance of her HB 2800 purchases, don’t carry Oregon-grown products. Many farmers regularly drive upwards of four hours to distribute their product into the Portland market, but, Vicky said, it’s been a challenge to encourage them to look in their own back yard for customers.
“Here in Eastern Oregon it’s all about distribution, distribution, distribution,” said Vicky.”We have until the end of June to spend the money but getting product is hard. Our time is precious and these food service ladies are going to farms and getting product on their own.”
According to a survey conducted by FoodHub and Ecotrust’s Farm to School staff of schools and pre-schools in Eastern Oregon, 142,700 meals are served daily to children by these kitchens and cafeterias. Roughly speaking, if all of these schools and preschools purchased Hermiston watermelon for just one of these meals or snacks (about 125,340 servings), it would support the purchase of 20,548 pounds of watermelon, and return about $15,411 into the local market at $0.75 per pound.
“This is my second year tapping into other local schools and trying to gather our purchasing power,” said Vicky who regularly coordinates purchase and delivery of product not only for her own kitchen, but also for others in a similar situation including the staff in Joseph, also HB 2800 recipients, who will often drive nearly two hours on their own time to pick up their portion of joint purchases. “The need is here,” she said.
Flex your region’s connections.
Build a business case for your region’s local food system by searching for other buyers in your area to start coordinating purchases. If you’re a seller looking for new local markets, use the Knowledgebase to find direct marketing tips and best practices. Have something to offer that’s not food? The Marketplace is ideal for advertising cold storage or commercial kitchen space that’s available for others in your community to use and may also be easy one-stop pick up sites for any coordinated purchases.