The Wisconsin Farm to School Program encourages healthy lifestyles in children and supports local economies. In Wisconsin, comprehensive farm to school programs combine local or regional 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 140 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 a bill to promote the growth of a farm to school program, including provisions for a state advisory council and a state coordinator through the Dept. of Agriculture. In 2010, the Dept. of Public Instruction, the Dept. of Health Services and the agriculture department jointly issued a statewide memorandum officially sanctioning the purchase of locally grown fruits and vegetables for school meal programs. In 2011, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dept. of Family Medicine issued an evaluation of Wisconsin’s farm to school programs, highlighting the impacts of the 14 AmeriCorps Farm to School Program sites across the state. The evaluation report shows that students in farm to school programs increase their knowledge about and consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. The more exposure students have, the more fresh foods they eat.
Wisconsin Farm to School partners host diverse programs that range in scale and scope. Food, agriculture and nutrition education programs include a farmer or chef visit to the classroom, school gardens, cooking contests, and more. Some farm to school programs may serve one school in a rural area, while others work at a county-wide scale or beyond. Schools may work closely with their distributors to obtain local product, work directly with local producers in their communities, or both. Every year the reach of the programs grows: integrating more fresh and local foods into school cafeterias, educating more students, and providing more economic benefit to local farmers.