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Guide promotes better food system

Rogue Valley Farm to School has been named to a national list of organizations working to create a healthier, more socially responsible food system.

Released this week, the "2014 Good Food Org Guide" celebrates more than 400 groups, including seven in Oregon. 

Rogue Valley Farm to School has coordinators who help with 22 school gardens in Jackson and Josephine counties. It also works to link school cafeteria programs with farmers to provide fresh, locally grown food to kids, and brings students out to working farms for hands-on activities and food tasting. 

Tracy Harding, executive director for Rogue Valley Farm to School, said she was excited and happy to learn of the organization's inclusion in the guide. 

The guide was developed by the James Beard Foundation and Food Tank, a think tank that researches and highlights ways of alleviating hunger, obesity and poverty. 

"We hope this guide will serve as a resource for chefs, farmers, students, advocates and others to find the resources they need about the growing good food movement in the U.S.," said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. 

The foundation is named after well-known cookbook author and teacher James Beard. 

Harding said Rogue Valley Farm to School has teamed with Southern Oregon University students who interview the participants in the organization's programs to see if they are making a difference. Participants are reporting they have changed their eating and shopping habits. 

"Children are choosing fresher, healthier, whole foods. They know how food is grown and they've cooked it themselves," Harding said. "Parents say they are buying more local, organic food." 

The six other Oregon groups named in the "2014 Good Food Org Guide" are: 

• Portland's Sustainable Food Program, which promotes community-supported agriculture programs and farmers markets.

• Central Oregon's High Desert Food & Farm Alliance, which helps connect consumers and farmers.

• The statewide Oregon Food Bank, which distributes emergency food to clients and teaches low-income people how to cook and eat healthy food on a budget.

• Oregon Rural Action, which promotes local food and sustainable energy.

• The Oregon Sustainable Land Trust, which holds land in trust for use as farms and community gardens.

• Portland-based Urban Gleaners, which collects edible food that would otherwise go to waste.

To see the full "2014 Good Food Org Guide," go to http://issuu.com/foodtank. 

Reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com.