Tool: Reap the benefits article from Wisconsin School News

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Tool: Reap the benefits article from Wisconsin School News

Farm to School program makes sensefor some schools and local farmersShelby AndersonEditor’s NoteWith the state Legislature recentlypassing farm to school legislation(AB 746), and the national focusremaining on the prevention ofchildhood obesity and its long-termhealth consequences, the discussionabout how to bring wholehealthy foods to the school cafeterialine continues. Like the debate sureto surround any issue, no one ideapresents a one-size-fits-all solution.However, two small Wisconsinschool districts have successfullyintroduced locally grown foods totheir food service program andshare their stories here.On a warm spring day on thegrounds of the Viroqua AreaSchool District, BjornBergman, Vernon Area AmeriCorpFarm to School member, is carryinga tub full of root vegetables from thehigh school to the elementaryschool. Bergman is scheduled to givelessons on the vegetables to twoseparate second-grade classes.Once in the classroom, Bergmanhas the students divide into groupsand he gives each group a differentvegetable. The students smell, taste,and feel the vegetables. They areasked to name the vegetable.One group calls their vegetable,which is a beet, Mr. Sweet.Bergman is the district’s PiedPiper of vegetables, procuring themfor the district’s cafeteria andarranging and giving lessons andproviding samples to the district’s1,000 students. In the second-gradeclassrooms, the students are eager toparticipate in the activities and tastethe new veggies. At the end of thelesson, Bergman asks the studentswhat they learned. One student saidthey learned to “Always try newfood,” and another said “That beetstaste good!”4 Wisconsin School News


C o v e r Story| continued from page 5Madison filmmaker Nathan Clarkefor the television show “WorldReport,” Viroqua Area School DistrictSuperintendent Robert Knadle emphasizedthe local aspect of the program.“We spend many, many dollarsfeeding children,” Knadle said. “If wecan incorporate those dollars backinto the community — where thosedollars get exchanged and exchangedand exchanged throughout our community— we see value in that.”Two GoalsThe program is about more thansaving money and offering morehealthy school meal choices, it alsoeducates students about what isproduced locally, “local food inschool lunches...is an excellent wayto reconnect kids with the path ofour food from farm to fork,” reads apamphlet from FarmtoSchool.org.That’s where Bergman comes in.Each month, Bergman does a“Harvest of the Month.” Thisinvolves featuring a fruit or vegetablethat is in season. This vegetableis used on the lunch menu andBergman provides samples andrecipe ideas at lunch time. He alsocoordinates and gives lessons andin-class activities to students andcoordinates field trips to farms forthe older students. When it comes tothe Farm to School movement,Bergman says there are two goals.“One is that this is an interventionto childhood obesity,” he says.“We’re getting kids to try differentfruits and vegetables. And two,we’re getting more food locally.We’re buying from local farmers andthat means less travel time.”The first goal: Getting students toeat fruits and vegetables is also one ofthe goals of the Task Force on ChildhoodObesity, established in Februaryby President Obama. Among otherinitiatives, the task force hopes toreduce childhood obesity in a generationand one of the ways the taskforce hopes to accomplish this goal isby ensuring that all students haveaccess to healthy foods.Monique Hooker, a renownedFarm to School in WisconsinHere’s a quick look at a couple of otherWisconsin school districts that are bringinglocal foods into their schools.NorthEast WisconsinFarm to School InitiativeThe NE Wisconsin Farm to School Initiative wasformed to assist growers and school districtswithin the CESA 7 boundaries interested inworking in partnership. Hilbert and Chilton PublicSchools are purchasing fresh produce from localfarms for their fruit and vegetable buffets.The Mount Horeb Area School DistrictThe district has been purchasing local fruits andvegetables directly from farmers since 2005. Future plans includeincreasing the amount of locally grown fruits and vegetables on themenu and identifying local sources for dairy and bakery products.Source: FarmtoSchool.orgR.E.A.P. Food GroupThis organization connects local farmers and consumers in south-centralWisconsin. It runs a number of programs, including several Farm to Schoolinitiatives with school districts in the Madison area. Through its snackprogram, chef in the classroom, and harvest of the month, R.E.A.P.increases access to fresh, local, and sustainable produced foods for schoolchildren; explores opportunities to build reliable markets for local sustainablefarmers and food processors within school food services; and connectschildren with food and farmers by providing hands-on educationalopportunities focused on the local food system and the connectionsbetween health, food, farms, and the environment.Source: Reapfoodgroup.orgPhoto courtesy of Spooner Area School DistrictFrench chef, cookbook author, andformer restaurateur, helps with Viroqua’sFarm to School Program and isone of its most ardent advocates.“The health issue facing our younggeneration is a huge epidemic: childrenare diabetic, overweight, andsuffer from attention deficit disorder,”Hooker says. “It is our responsibilityto see that they are cared for before itgets worse and we owe it to our nextgeneration to make them healthy andkeep them healthy.”Will They Eat It?However, to become healthier, studentsmust learn to make healthychoices. Some may wonder howmany students are actually opting toeat the locally-grown food that thedistrict is working so hard to serve.Infusing information into the classroomabout the food the childrenwill find in their cafeteria is astrategy employed by Viroqua andthe Chilton Public School District,another pioneer in the Farm toSchool movement. This introductionand taste-testing increases the students’awareness about the food andgives them an opportunity to try itbefore it is served for lunch.Diane Chapeta, child nutritionservices director for the ChiltonPublic School District, also goes into|May 20107


district bought seconds from farmers,which are the veggies that may not beperfectly shaped but work fine for thedistrict’s uses.Chapeta, who is also the leadcontact for the Northeast WisconsinFarm to School Initiative, helps otherschools establish a Farm to Schoolprogram and she says the numberone concern is always cost. However,she says, buying locally can save adistrict money.“It’s actually very economical forus,” Chapeta says.In the Chilton Public Schools,Chapeta says she can buy local,seasonal produce cheaper than fromthe national distributor. For instance,Chapeta can buy apples from a localorchard from September to Februaryfor 13 cents apiece, compared to 24cents from the distributor.In Viroqua, through other efforts,like the Harvest Challenge, whichgives high school students a chanceto cook with local chefs and serves asa fundraiser, the district’s foodservice program is self-sustaining anddoesn’t draw money from the district’sother resources.Another concern districts mayhave is the issue of staff time andlabor. Volden says it does take moretime to process local fruits and vegetablesbut there are solutions. InViroqua, the food processing daysthat take place before the school yearare a big help. On these days, thestaff processes much of what it needsfor the entire school year. In addition,the district will be acquiringa Buy Local Grant, which they maybe able to use to get help processingthe food.In Chilton, Chapeta says her staffhas adapted well to new cookingmethods in the kitchen but addedthat districts must realize that, likeall change, this too is a learningprocess.“We taught our cooks how tocook again,” Chapeta says.She says it took about one yearuntil her staff were proficient andcomfortable cooking and workingwith local goods on a large scale.Chapeta held training days for herstaff where, among other things, theyCONNECT TO WASB.ORGVisit wasb.org/cms/wisconsin-school-news.htmlto learn more about the Farm to School movementand view a podcast of fifth-grade Viroqua studentdescribing the school garden.were taught how to cut and processfruits and veggies. Chapeta said theonly kitchen upgrades needed thatyear were knives and cutting boards.While some staff may not be initiallyreceptive to change in the schoolkitchen, she says the key is to involvethe staff in the process.For instance, in the Chilton PublicSchools all potatoes used in theschools’ cafeterias are bought locally.When deciding how to serve the localpotatoes, Chapeta had her foodservice staff bring in their favoriterecipes from home. The recipes weretested and nine recipes were developed.(None of the recipes requirestaff to peel potatoes, a time consumingtask.)“It opened their eyes,” Chapetasays of her food service staff. “Nowthey know how to cook.”|The Garden as the ClassroomIn 2006, Viroqua Middle Schoolfifth-grade teacher Sue Berg starteda school garden.“Our goal was to use the garden as a place where handsonlearning could occur,” Berg said. “In addition, wewanted the students to develop a greater appreciation forthe role of food in our lives.”So far, it seems that the garden has successfully fulfilledthose goals. Berg says the multi-sensory learningenvironment of the garden has affected the students’engagement in real-life science. Science terms come tolife as they see plants take root and grow.Other subjects relate to the garden as well. Studentskeep a daily garden journal, and they help plan gardenextension activities, such as the Garden Harvest Festival.“The garden has been the learning vehicle to improvestudent skills in science, math, language arts and socialstudies,” Berg says.Students have also been able to see how the veggiesin the garden can be used at the dining room table.When students come back to school, they hold a GardenHarvest Festival in which they harvest the garden andproduce dishes. Last year, during a special event, about100 students were served a variety of dishes includingsouthwest corn chowder, eggplant pizza, zucchini cake,and more.Although, none of the food is used in the school cafeteria,Berg hopes to change that. This summer, whilestudent volunteers and parents maintain the garden,veggies will be donated to two local food pantries. Inaddition, the district will offer a summer school coursecalled Garden to Fork, which will teach students howto cook with fresh garden produce.Overall, Berg says the school garden has been asuccess, “Students have become more aware of thegarden-to-table cycle and its importance in the productionof healthy, homegrown food.” NMay 20109


| continued from previous pageGlobal MovementStarting at HomeThough they may not realize it, theViroqua Area School District andChilton Public School District arepart of a world-wide movement toimprove the world’s accessibility toquality food. New phrases such as“food poverty,” “food desert,” and“food apartheid” are entering ourlexicon, and not for good reasons.Food poverty refers to theinability of people in certain geographiclocations or socio-economicclasses to obtain healthy, affordablefoods. “Food poverty is worse diet,worse access, worse health, higherpercentage of income on food andless choice from a restricted rangeof foods. Above all, food povertyis about less or almost no consumptionof fruit and vegetables,” saidTim Lang, professor of food policyat City University of London on theWeb site sustainweb.org.Likewise, food desert refers tomany different factors such as thephenomena of smaller grocery storesdisappearing and being replaced bylarger supermarkets that are notalways readily accessed by largeportions of the population. This isespecially true in large, urban areaswhere it can be very hard for groupsof people with low socio-economicstatus and limited transportation toaccess affordable, non-processed orwhole foods.About theCover…This month’s cover features a photo ofa student in the school garden on thecampus of the Spooner Area School District.With the help of AmeriCorps members JanetOakland and Amy Young, the district hasbeen working hard to bring local produce intothe district’s schools and educate studentson healthy eating. One aspect of the district’seffort is its thriving school garden,Helping Hands School Garden.The garden began four years ago througha joint effort by the district’s AmeriCorps member, localMaster Gardeners, and district staff member. Since then it hasdeveloped into a source of pride for the district and community.“It has very well supported by the community,” said KarenCollins, Community Education Coordinator for the district.Master Gardeners in the community have stepped forwardto help maintain the garden and educate the district’s students.The garden has also been used to teach classesin the district’s after-school and summer school programs.During the summer community member volunteer to waterand maintain the garden. NAs the impact of poverty continuesto influence more and more children,and these other factors threaten theiraccess to a healthy food supply, it canbe seen why a local food movement isviewed as one way to reverse thesetrends. Students in the Viroqua andChilton school districts will leave witha better understanding of the importanceof access to healthy food.“The connection is imperative tothe success for better health andeating habits that will influencetheir diet in the future,” Hookersays. “This will nurture a betterhealth not only for themselves butalso for their own community.” nAnderson is editor of Wisconsin School News.Interested in Farm to School?After seeing the Viroqua Farm to School program takeoff, Marilyn Volden, Food/Nutrition Program Supervisorat the Viroqua Area School District said other areadistricts have expressed interest in developing a similarprogram. This August, Volden will be holding a trainingday and staff from others districts are welcome to comeinto her school to see how the Viroqua Area SchoolDistrict utilizes local produce in the school kitchen. Interesteddistricts can contact Volden at 608-637-1645 ormlvolden@viroqua.k12.wi.us.If your district is in the northeastern part of the state,contact Diane Chapeta, child nutrition services directorfor the Chilton Public School District and lead contactfor the Northeast Wisconsin Farm to School Initiative.She can be reached at 920-849-2393 or by e-maildchapeta@chilton.k12.wi.us.Any districts interested in starting a farm to schoolprogram, can also contact Camilla Vargas, AmeriCorpsFarm to School Program Manager at 608-224-5017 orby e-mail Camilla.vargas@wi.gov. N10 Wisconsin School News

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