Members of the State Senate heard testimony Tuesday about the many benefits of a program known as Farm-to-School. Sen. Daisy Lawler, D-Comanche, requested the interim study on the program which helps local farmers sell fresh produce to area schools.
Lawler requested the study after learning about a pilot Farm-to-School program involving the sale of Oklahoma-grown watermelons to six state school districts.
"That pilot program has been hailed as a resounding success. I wanted to look at the possibility of duplicating that success on a much larger scale," Lawler said.
Anne Roberts, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy said one of the top health issues for the state's young people was obesity. Roberts told the committee that in 2004, Oklahoma ranked 13th in the nation in adult obesity with an 11.1 percent of Oklahoma high school students considered overweight with another 14.2 percent at risk for being overweight. She also said that when it comes to consuming five or more fruits or vegetables a day, Oklahomans rank last in the nation.
Roberts said Farm-to-School had worked in other states to help provide better nutrition for children and reduce obesity rates. She supported expansion of existing Farm-to-School programs to serve more children.
"The Fit Kids Coalition would really like to see the ability to coordinate with the ag people to provide an opportunity both for kids to get fresh fruits and vegetables and to also impact local economies and provide a market for our farmers," said Roberts.
Dr. Jim Horne, President and CEO of the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture also testified in support of expanding Farm-to-School programs into more school districts.
"I think we need to approach Farm-to-School as we already have in some respect, but as a campaign and a marketing opportunity in Oklahoma, as a way to help encourage better nutrition, to get parents actively involved in supporting better nutrition in schools. But also in just getting our farmers interested and realizing that this is a market," said Horne.
Senator Lawler said she was very pleased with the information presented during Tuesday's hearing.
"I think it reaffirmed that this really is a win-win program for our schools, our farms and our rural communities," said Lawler. "I'm very pleased that other members of the Senate had the opportunity to learn first-hand about the tremendous benefits this could bring to Oklahoma."
Lawler said there would be at least one more meeting next month which will include additional information on Farm-to-School and how other states are taking advantage of the program.