Last week Portland Public Schools issued guidance encouraging the community not to eat produce from school gardens. The guidance was based on the fact that many of our gardens have been irrigated with water testing above federal drinking water standards.
On Friday, August 26th, an updated was issued by PPS and the Oregon Healthy Authority (OHA):
Eating fresh produce from a garden is a healthy choice for people of all ages and their families. Recently, OHA looked at scientific research about the safety of gardening in soil that could contain lead. The amount of lead delivered to soil through water is quite small compared to the amount of lead already present at background levels in soil. Other potential sources, such as lead-based paint chips and dust, represent a much more significant contributor to soil lead concentrations. In general, garden plants do not absorb significant quantities of lead. However, it is important for people to wash vegetables and hands after gardening to reduce possible exposure to lead in soil, which is the major potential source of lead contamination on produce.
We appreciate the guidance from OHA. As previously communicated, at this point we will not be serving food from school gardens because we are still evaluating fixtures for lead used for food preparation. PPS will reinstitute the use of school garden produce in its kitchens and classrooms once its cold water fixtures are available to safely wash garden fruits and vegetables. We will provide thorough training to our nutrition services staff about proper washing at that time. To read entire joint statement click here PPS and the Oregon Healthy Authority OHA