October is National Farm to School month. All over the country, farm to school programs are empowering children to make informed and healthy food choices. These programs are also strengthening local food supply chains and building up local economies.
Wisconsin’s Farm to School program has been no exception. Since the program’s formal creation within the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection in 2009, it has helped get locally-grown food into school cafeterias. As a result, over 565,000 Wisconsin students have access to healthier and more nutritious food.
Despite the success of the Farm to School program, the Governor’s 2017-19 biennial budget proposal would have eliminated Wisconsin’s Farm to School coordinator and the 15-member council that advises lawmakers on local food supply chains and school partnerships. Wisconsin, which was one of the first states to create the coordinator position, would have been among the first to eliminate it.
Educators and local-food advocates highlighted the benefits of the coordinator position during the budget process. In a two year period, the former coordinator helped divert $1.4 million in federal funding to local Wisconsin farmers and secured over $200,000 in grants. Additionally, 164 Wisconsin school districts purchased nearly $9.2 million in food from local farmers in 2015, which advocates argue was boosted because of the Farm to School program.
Even if you are not a student, there are great ways to celebrate National Farm to School month. Visit a local farmers’ market. Purchase from local farmers and main street entrepreneurs. Donate fresh and healthy food to a food shelf. We can all play a part to honor our agricultural heritage and create healthier communities.