Guest Blogger: Jim Degan, Food Service Manager
Farm to School, Farm to Institution, Farm to Table – these all have one important thing in common, the Farm. Over time we have lost touch with our roots and understanding the importance of where our food comes from.
The Wisconsin Farm to School Program encourages healthy lifestyles in children and supports local economies. In Wisconsin, comprehensive farm to school programs combine local procurement efforts, nutrition and agricultural education, and student engagement activities such as school gardening, in order to provide students with the broadest benefits. Farm to school activities in Wisconsin have been gaining momentum since 2002, with local food served in more than 235 school districts across the state. Through the commitment of a strong network of partners — including state agencies, schools, farmers, distributors, nonprofits, parents and students — farm to school has become a vibrant movement connecting kids to healthy, local food and connecting farmers to happy, local customers.
The state of Wisconsin has been a strong supporter of farm to school. In 2009, the Legislature enacted Act 293 to promote the growth of a farm to school program, including provisions for a state advisory council and a state coordinator through the Department of Agriculture.
Goals of Wisconsin Farm to School
- Strengthen local economies by expanding markets for Wisconsin agricultural producers and food entrepreneurs.
- Promote children's health by providing fresh and minimally processed foods in schools and supporting the development of healthy eating habits.
- Increase children's and communities' knowledge about agriculture, food, nutrition and the environment.
The School District of Janesville has been actively involved in growing the Farm to School program in Rock County and the State of Wisconsin over the last 5 years. Our support has grown from school gardens at Jackson Elementary (Providing a community meal from the garden), Roosevelt Elementary (Serving students spinach and radishes grown in garden at lunch), and a community garden on Rockport Road by Wilson Elementary (Giving families bags of donated vegetables for use at home) to purchasing from Amazing Grace Farms a GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certified farm meeting federal regulations and serving locally grown vegetables in school.
The Great Lakes Apple Crunch or Great Apple Crunch is another way we are celebrating Farm to School Month in Janesville. On the 3rd Annual Crunch will be taking place across the district where all students and staff are encouraged to take a “Crunch at Lunch” from a Wisconsin grown apple. This year the goal is 1 million crunchers from the great lakes states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. Ann O’Leary, Alice in Dairyland will be on hand at Marshall Middle School to help celebrate.
In the 2016-17 school year the district will continue to provide locally grown fruits and vegetables when possible from our Farm to School Partners, Amazing Grace Farms (Janesville); Apple Hut Orchard (Town of Beloit); Richland Hills / Sunset Orchard (Richland Hills, WI); Seneca Foods (Janesville); and the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, all providing locally grown fruit and vegetables for the district. Farm to School—helping students see a connection between Wisconsin agriculture, the economy, education, and building a stronger future for all.