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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.   

  • Farm to School - Upstream co-leads the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network’s Policy Workgroup to ensure more Oregon produced and processed foods are available in schools. 
  • Sugary Beverage Limits - Upstream Public Health will start educating school administrators, parents, and community groups about the negative health effects of sugary drinks and promote restrictions on junk food (including sugary drinks) marketing in schools.  Upstream also works with a coalition of state partners exploring other options for decreasing soda consumption. 
  • 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. 

What You Can Do

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

Our Successes So Far

In partnership with other community leaders, Upstream spearheaded the Farm to School and School Garden advocacy effort during the 2013 legislative session  which resulted in $1.2 million toward expanding the Farm to School program to over 170,000 students in 19 school districts throughout Oregon.  In January 2014, Upstream hosted the first School Garden Summit.  Hundreds of school garden administrators and volunteers from around the state gathered in Salem to network and dicsuss best practices. Read about it here!

Upstream Public Health helped create Oregon’s Farm to School and School Garden program, by lobbying to create positions in the Department of Agriculture (2007) and Department of Education (2008). In 2011, Upstream 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.

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.

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.