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Food & Nutrition

What we eat and drink every day affects how we feel in the moment, and it impacts our overall health. Upstream works to make quality, healthy food easy to get, cheaper, and available to everyone. 

Why It Matters

Lack of affordable, accessible, healthy food costs us our health, our vitality, our ability to learn, and our ability to work.  Food access is also about fairness: limited healthy food options create an added burden for people with lower incomes, people of color, people living in isolated areas, older adults, and youth.  This lack of good food and over-abundance of junk food is part of why Oregon is one of the hungriest states in the nation; more than half a million Oregonians are food insecure.  The average Oregonian consumes one gallon of soda per week and fifty gallons per year, with people below poverty line consuming three times that amount.  40% of children drink a soda a week before age 2.  Our toxic food environments contribute to overweight and obesity rates, which have tripled among children and doubled among adults in the past thirty years.  Obesity increases the risk of other serious health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, high cholesterol, breathing problems, depression, and weakened bones.

What We’re Doing

We support the health of all Oregonians everyday by incorporating food and nutrition issues in land use, public health, and economic development decisions. Upstream is participating in regional and statewide efforts to make sure decision makers consider health and equity impacts of food and nutrition.   

  • Sugary Beverage Limits - Many communities are pursuing taxes on sugary drinks as a way to generate funds for children's health and wellness programs.  Upstream is very interested in that idea and is exploring possibilities in Oregon.
  • Food Access, Water Access, and Food Systems Planning - Upstream works with schools and school districts to increase access to healthy foods and beverages including water. We also support regional food system efforts such as the City of Portland’s Urban Food Zoning Code Update and the Multnomah Food Initiative.
  • School Nutrition Standards - On the federal front, Upstream partnered with the Health Impact Project and the Kids’ Safe and Healthy Foods Project to conduct a Health Impact Assessment examining how stronger nutritional standards on snacks and drinks sold in schools might affect student health and school finances.  
  • Nutrition Incentives for Low-Income Oregonians - Upstream has been working with local Coordinated Care Organizations (CCOs), state agencies, and non-profit partners to investigate options for improving nutrition for low-income families.  See this article in the Washington Post for some background on the idea of "Veggie prescriptions," but also information about the shortage of nutrition education in medical school.  
  • Farm to School and School Gardens - We have been working since 2007 to support and expand farm to school and school garden programs at schools throughout Oregon.  We lobby for funding for school districts to do this work, work with ODE and ODA staff on the details of program administration, and coordinate the annual Oregon School Garden Summit.   

What You Can Do

Interested in learning more about ongoing ways to get involved in these issues? E-mail Kasandra, our Policy Manager for Food and School Health, and she'll point you in the right direction.

Our Successes So Far

Farm to School

Upstream has been leading advocacy work to create and expand Oregon's Farm to School and School Garden program since 2006.  

We lobbied successfully to create positions in the Department of Agriculture (2007) and Department of Education (2008). In 2011, we helped pass legislation creating a Farm to School and School Garden Grant pilot program, to provide funds to school districts to subsidize the cost of buying local foods, and providing food, garden, and agriculture-based education. A total of $200,000 was provided for those grants, and the pilot ran in 11 school districts and benefited over 60,000 Oregon kids.  We also released a Health Impact Assessment of the original legislation, which proposed to provide farm to school funding for all schools, statewide.  

In 2013, we led a lobbying effort to expand the funding and secured an additional $1,000,000 per biennium for the program, which is managed by the Oregon Department of Education.  In 2013-15, the program was able to serve over 170,000 students in 19 school districts throughout Oregon.  Then, in 2015, we were able to expand funding for farm to school and school garden programs by another $3.3 million, to a total of $4.5 million for the 2015-17 biennium.  We also changed the details of how the program works.  Now, 80% of the funds go to school districts to buy local foods, and the funds are divided between *all* school districts that choose to opt in to the program.  The remaining 20% of funds are distributed through competetive grants, for programs the provide "food, garden, and agriculture-based education" in school districts.    

In January 2014, Upstream hosted the first School Garden Summit.  Over two hundred school garden coordinators and volunteers from around the state gathered in Salem to learn, network and get inspired. We have since done it two more times, for audiences of approximately 300 in 2015 and 2016.  Read about it here!

Water Stations

Also, in 2011, a partnership with David Douglas School District, we successfully increased student access to filtered tap water in eight schools, dispersed 4,940 BPA-free water bottles to students, and worked with 10,000 students to promote health. As a result of easy access to cold, filtered water, water consumption doubled and soda consumption decreased by 40%.  You can read the project report here.

Other Nutrition Accomplishments

In 2014-15, we worked to pass state legislation to End Junk Food Marketing in Schools.  We did not pass a law in Oregon as hoped, but the USDA subsequently released federal rules that do what we wanted -- hooray!  See more here.  

In 2008 and 2009, we also led the effort to pass menu calorie-labeling at the Multnomah County and state levels.

In 2007, we introduced and helped win passage of Oregon school nutrition standards that got the worst junk food out of Orgeon schools.