August 2015(digital archive: save, share, translate)
Upstream believes that tasty and healthy food in school cafeterias is critical to give kids the nutrition they need to succeed in school and in life, and to address Oregon’s persistent achievement gap. Toward that end, Upstream has been working since 2006 to promote Farm to School and School Garden programs, which help schools buy and serve local foods, and teach kids where food comes from and how to grow it themselves. Upstream led a coalition of partners to a series of legislative victories in 2007, 2008, 2011, 2013, creating and incrementally expanding Oregon’s now-famous Farm to School and School Garden programs.
Most recently, the 2015 legislature authorized a total of $4.5 million in program spending, and some major changes in how the program works. Starting this fall, Oregon will become the first state in the nation to offer funding to all school districts to buy and serve Oregon products. Funding for local purchasing was first authorized in 2011, and increased in 2013, and this will be the first time that schools do not have to submit competitive grant applications to get the funds. In 2013-15, twenty-one districts were participating. Starting in the fall of 2015, we hope that it will be all 197 of Oregon’s school districts. In addition to the funding for local foods, 20% of the total is allocated for “food, garden, and agriculture-based educational activities,” to teach kids about where food comes from and get them excited about healthy choices. . We have seen time and again that kids are excited to eat anything that they get to grow or even just harvest themselves. Those funds will still be allocated through competitive grants, starting in the winter. School districts, partnering non-profit organizations, and commodity commissions will all be eligible to apply. Big thanks to Representative Brian Clem, D-Salem for his many years of sponsorship of Farm to School legislation, and to all the partners in the Oregon Farm to School and School Garden Network, who helped with this and prior victories.
For more information, see http://www.upstreampublichealth.org/issues/farm-school-program-0.
Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death in America, and Oregon has the highest sales to minors in the nation. In fact 22.5% of Oregon retailers illegally sold to minors in 2013. Also, prior to this legislative session, Oregon had no age restriction for the purchase of E-Cigarettes. Upstream, in partnership with the American Heart Association and other partners, worked during the 2015 legislative session to pass the following anti-tobacco bills that reduce access by minors and otherwise reduce unnecessary suffering and early death.
- Statewide age restriction on E-Cigarettes passed: Prohibits sale, distribution and possession of e-cigarettes to minors, and bans use of E-Cigarettes indoors. (Earlier in the spring, we worked hard to successfully pass a Multnomah County ordinance doing this same thing; we were delighted to follow up so quickly with state-level policy.)
- Tobacco Master Settlement: On November 23, 1998, 46 states and the four largest US tobacco manufacturers entered into an agreement called the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). Since then, these manufacturers agreed to make payments to states, but until 2013, none of Oregon's settlement funds were used for tobacco cessation and prevention programs. Upstream helped secure $4.1 million for prevention and cessation programs in 2013, and fought to renew those funds in 2015. Another $4.1 million in those funds are allocated for physical education grants to schools, while the nearly-$150 million in other TMSA funds are still allocated for other health services.
- Tobacco Retail Licensing: Upstream and partners worked on a bill that would have required all tobacco retailers in the state to be licensed by OLCC. This didn't pass this session, but Upstream is still working with the Multnomah County Commission to pass this at the County level, and then we will try again at the state level.
Upstream works on transportation because the simple act of getting from home to work or to the grocery store can keep you healthy or make you sick. This session, we worked with coalition partners from Transportation for Oregon’s Future to pass transportation legislation to support healthy living, social equity, environmental stewardship, and a strong economy. Upstream was joined on the coalition Steering Committee by Oregon Environmental Council, OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon, Bicycle Transportation Alliance, Better Eugene Springfield Transit, Transportation for America, Oregon Walks, and 1000 Friends of Oregon. Alongside these partners, Upstream helped develop the coalition priorities, many of which we were able to advance:
- Our Goal: At least 75% new transportation dollars dedicated to fixing existing roads first.
- Public Health Impact: Keeping our roads and bridges in a good state of repair will result in less spending over time, freeing up funds for other important transportation investments.
- Outcome: ODOT is committing to spending 87.5% of their existing money on fixing existing roads rather than building new roads. This will achieve one of our goals administratively without requiring legislative action.
- Our Goal: Win $75M for transit operations across the State of Oregon
- Public Health Impact: One in three Oregonians don’t drive, and many don’t drive due to age or disability. If other transportation options are not affordable and accessible, this can have huge impacts on health through lack of access to health care and other health-supporting services.
- Outcome: While we did not secure funding, the transportation package that was discussed late in the legislative session included $80M in a new employee payroll tax in urban transit districts for operations. Oregon funds transit at a level considerably below the national average, so we applaud that the proposed package included a dedicated funding source that would have provided a significant amount for transit operations. However, both the proposed source for that funding and that it would limit the funding to just a few existing transit systems posed hurdles of equity and sufficiency.
- Our Goal: Win $20M of funding for a new statewide youth access to transit initiative.
- Public Health Impact: For youth, transportation is one of the most commonly cited factors when students are absent or late to school, and chronic absenteeism can have a devastating impact on students’ future success and health. Unfortunately, Oregon has one of the worst rates of chronic absenteeism.
- Outcome: This priority has turned into a workgroup that will make recommendations to a future legislature. This is a common interim step for legislative concepts, and we will continue to work to build support for a fully funded youth transit program.
- Our Goal: Preserve eligibility for bicycle and pedestrian projects in the ConnectOregon program.
- Public Health Impact: Improving infrastructure that makes walking and riding a bike safe and convenient will result in more Oregonians choosing to walk and bike for exercise and transportation. The resulting increase in physical activity will in turn help reduce mortality and morbidity (colon and breast cancer, diabetes, stroke, and heart disease). In addition, the reduction in vehicle emissions will result in improved air quality and related health benefits.
- Outcome: Victory. HB 2274 passed, ensuring that bicycle and pedestrian projects will be eligible to compete for these $45M in funds.
In 2007, Upstream worked with other health advocates to pass a bill limiting junk food sales in Oregon schools. Specifically, the bill set nutrition standards for snacks. The federal government caught up in 2014, and implemented national standards for snacks sold in schools that approximately matched the ones Oregon implemented years earlier. We thought that made it the right time to take the next step, and ensure that Oregon schools are not marketing any items that do not meet the nutrition standards for what can be sold on campus. For example, do teachers give away coupons for ice cream or pizza, and/or do vending machines on campus advertise conventional soda, even if they just sell water and low-calorie beverages? We think these and other forms of marketing send inconsistent messages to our kids, and undercut our efforts to make schools healthy food environments.
Unfortunately, we were not able to pass this legislation, this session. We encountered a problem with the Oregon constitution, which has the strongest free speech protections in the country, and which prohibits “limiting speech based on content.” We developed a tentative work-around to that problem, by changing our proposal to direct the Oregon Department of Education to “establish limits on junk food marketing in schools, to the extent allowable by law,” … but then we encountered opposition from the Oregon School Boards Association, and we were unable to reach a mutually satisfying compromise. We are now awaiting the release of a new federal rule on school wellness policies by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The draft version of that rule, released in February of 2014, specified that school wellness policies should “Permit marketing on the school campus during the school day of only those foods and beverages that meet the requirements under § 210.11.” If the final rule is released with that same language, then schools will be compelled to develop wellness policies that address junk food marketing on campus, in order to participate in federal school meals programs. Upstream would be ready and willing to help them! For more information, see http://www.upstreampublichealth.org/end-junk-food-marketing-schools-2.
Upstream Public Health was a founding member of the HOPE (Healthy Oregon Partnerships for Equity) Coalition, which in 2014 merged with the Oregon Health Equity Alliance (OHEA.) We now serve on the OHEA steering committee; we are excited to be part of this powerful coalition that is fighting to ensure that all Oregonians have equal access to good health. In 2015, OHEA lobbied for seven priority issues, five of which passed the legislature in some form. Here is a micro-summary of these issues. The lead organizations for each campaign are listed, but all of the campaigns were truly group efforts:
- Ban the Box: Makes it easier for people to get jobs after serving time for criminal convictions. Employers can still ask job applicants whether they have a criminal record, but they must wait until an interview, rather than asking it on an application form. (Urban League)
- End Profiling: Defines and bans police profiling based on several characteristics, directs the state to gather data on stops and arrests to identify patterns, and gives people somewhere central to report cases of profiling. (Center for Intercultural Organizing)
- Paid Sick Time: Creates a statewide standard for sick leave for all conventional employers. (Family Forward)
- Basic Health Plan: Creates a stakeholder group to provide input on developing a Basic Health Plan option for low-income working Oregonians who fall between the cracks of other coverage options. (APANO and the Oregon Law Center were key leaders of the Inclusion, Affordability and Innovation Coalition)
- Cover All Kids: This effort did not secure the desired legislation to provide health insurance to all Oregon kids, or fix a statute that mandates the exclusion of some kids, but it did secure $10 million in funding for Safety Net Capacity Grants, to ensure that kids will (for now) have access to the primary care services they need. (Oregon Latino Health Coalition)
- Ban Junk Food Marketing in Schools: This campaign, led by Upstream, is described above in its own article. The bill did not pass, this time.
- Comprehensive Women’s Health: Proposed that all health insurance should cover the full range of women’s reproductive health needs. The bill did not pass, this time. (Jointly led by Western States Center, ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and Oregon NARAL)
For more about OHEA and a longer version of OHEA’s 2015 legislative summary, see http://www.oregonhealthequity.org/.
In addition to our work with OHEA, Upstream has been working with other coalitions on another health equity issue: Housing access and affordability. Efforts to pass a statewide bill allowing local jurisdictions to pass inclusionary zoning policies did not pass, unfortunately. However, we were proud to work with the Portland Anti-Displacement Coalition to incorporate equity and anti-displacement policies into the current revision of Portland’s comprehensive plan. That plan is an important document that will guide the next 20 years of urban development. The equity language was incorporated into the version passed by the Planning and Sustainability Commission; it moves next to Portland City Council.