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Farm to School

Children showing their hands covered in garden soil
Child holding potato eyes up to his eyes
Facilitator discussing potato planting with a group of students
Girl planting an onion in the school garden
Boy digging in school garden with trowel
Girl with handful of seeds getting ready to plant
Girl planting a marigold
Students celebrating after planting school garden beds
Students planting asparagus crowns
Students planting raised school garden beds

So much is "growing" on with our Farm to School program. Farm to School connects schools and local farms with the objectives of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias; improving student nutrition; providing agriculture, health and nutrition education opportunities; and supporting local and regional farmers. Over the past decade the School Nutrition Department has been purchasing from Hillside Orchards, Ledgeview Gardens, Alpha Baking and Seasonal Harvest, a cooperative of local farmers. Last school year, we added local cheeses to our service lines through the distributor, Laack Cheese. We have also had the opportunity of serving "hyper local" food to our students directly from our school gardens and Fork Farm hydroponic towers. Students are offered local produce on the lunch line every single day. Students have tried items like watermelon radishes, orange beefsteak tomatoes, colored carrots and cauliflower, and dragon tongue beans. We truly embrace our vision statement Fresh Local Food for Healthy Local Kids!
 
Farm to School is not just a single school or school district initiative. It takes a village to support such an important mission. We are so grateful to be a part of our local Farm to School community. Thank you to Wello for the partnership in connecting our school to our local farms. There are nine school districts participating in the Brown County Farm to School Task Force, which served over 28,000 pounds of local produce in their schools and purchased over $195,000 of produce directly supporting our local farms in 2020-2021. During the 2022-2023 school year, our school district served over 5 tons of fresh, local food to our students and staff. The 2020-2021 Brown County Farm to School Report describes how we come together to build a food system to benefit all. Wello recently reported that "over the course of our most recent USDA Farm to School implementation grant (2020-2022), there was a 483% increase in the amount of local food purchased for school meals."  We are so proud to be a part of this community partnership! Check out our 2020-2021 De Pere Farm to School Report to see how our students have been connected to our local farms and their healthy, fresh produce.

Core Elements of Farm to School: School Gardens, Education, Procurement
Farm to School Core Element School Gardens
Farm to School Procurement Core Element
Farm to School Education Core Element

What do we do?

We have passionate school nutrition staff who are not only serving fresh local foods to our students but are also connecting with the students through various initiatives within our Farm to School program. The Core Elements of Farm to School include procurement, education and school gardens.

Procurement

locally raised and processed beef hotdogs

Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, the School Nutrition Department served over 5 tons of locally grown foods during meal service. These purchases positively impact our local economy by supporting local farms and businesses. Each month we feature a Harvest of the Month on our lunch menus. These foods have ranged from fresh local apples to locally-harvested maple syrup. Some of these foods, such as dragon tongue beans, are completely new to the students while others, such as beet sticks and sweet potatoes, have become regular staples. Recent collaborations include the purchases of freshly baked bread from Great Harvest Bread, locally raised beef from Brand Acres Beef that was processed locally at Roskom Meats, as well as locally grown produce from the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative. The impact of our local schools purchasing locally grown foods has been so great that we are now able to purchase locally grown foods with our government funding. 

Education

Students observing microgreen wagons

Our Farm to School program reaches beyond the cafeteria and into the classrooms. Our department has four mobile microgreen growing wagons that are used for teaching students about the lifecycle of plants and food. Microgreens are tasty little sprouts of peas, radishes and sunflowers. Students enjoy planting the seeds in soil, observing the food growth and savoring the taste test finale.  

Our School Nutrition Staff also presents a wide variety of food-related lessons to K-5 students throughout the year. Lessons include information on soil health and connections to our food, native and local plants used for food, nutrition and energy balance for the body, the food production system from farm to tray and more. These lessons include interactive activities as well as a "polite bite" taste test sample at the end of the lesson. "Polite bite" samples are always locally grown or produced foods and have included apples, watermelon radishes, zucchini noodles, honey sticks, and more! Over 2000 students in our district experienced Farm to School lessons and tried a "polite bite" three times last school year!

With three hydroponic Fork Farm Flex Farms within our district, our agricultural classes and a newer summer school class allow students to study the food system without the use of soil. Everything grown with the hydroponic farms is used for meal service or our summer meal program.

School Gardens

Students mixing up a large pan of freshly prepped garden salsa

School gardens are outdoor learning laboratories. Everything about food is rooted in science. Whether it's the soil ecology lesson that happens when students find critters while feeling the soil roll over their fingers or the kitchen chemistry that occurs when the food is cooked into something tasty to eat, the School Nutrition Department is cultivating student scientists through hands-on experiences with the food system. Our staff members guide students through direct seed sowing and seedling transplantation while teaching them about garden growing needs as well as perennial vs. annual plants. These students and their families then tend to the garden throughout the growing season. When it's time to harvest, these students complete the food system cycle with a variety of cooking classes using the fruits of their summer garden care.