Farm to School

Child eating school lunch

Monroe County Schools on the GO is building a coalition of farmers, parents and community members who want to develop a strong farm to school effort in the, Sparta, Tomah and Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton school districts.

With the help of a Transform Wisconsin Food Systems Impact Grant and USDA Farm to School Planning Grant and Implementation Grant, the group worked to improve nutrition practices and increase fruit and vegetable consumption for Monroe County children. This coalition continues to work to strengthen our local food system and increase the availability of healthy and affordable food for residents in our communities.

The receipt of the two-year $160,000 Transform Wisconsin grant instilled cooperation between the school nutrition programs of the three school districts and led them to begin looking at best practices for beginning farm to school programs. Teaming up to learn proper procurement, preparation and serving has proved invaluable. Further funding from the one-year $35,000 USDA grant and an additional $99,032 USDA grant has led the districts to begin developing relationships with area producers and suppliers as well as further nutrition education within coalition schools.

Children seated around a teacherAs childhood obesity becomes an epidemic, the coalition believes providing access and information to healthy options becomes crucial. The Sparta Area School District is fortunate to have salad bars in many lunch rooms that serve as instant teaching tools but looks forward to the near future when a farmer is able to attend lunch and say the food served that day came from just a few miles away.

Programs to be implemented in the Sparta Area School District include school gardens, advocacy and education. They include:

  • Farm to School information shared with school district families and the greater Sparta community through the Monroe County Schools on the Go social media sites including Facebook and a blog.
  • Healthy recipes developed by Monroe County Schools on the Go Farm to School Chef Jason Boris posted on our Sparta Area School District Farm to School Recipe Exchange. The school districts are working with Chef Jason through the USDA grant to develop new recipes for the lunchrooms as well as skills training for staff. Early taste tests were well received by students, staff and parents.
  • Sparta High School agriculture students grow lettuce and tomatoes using Hydroponics. The lettuce and tomatoes are served to students through the nutritional services program on the salad bars.
    Lettuce grown at Sparta High School
  • A Harvest of the Month program featuring a different fruit or vegetable monthly. This educational activity provides students with a taste and information on the particular produce. This generates an interest in local foods and promotes health eating practices that can last a lifetime. When children are interested in fruits and vegetables, it becomes difficult not to serve them at home.
  • A list of educational resources from local, state and national sources to help families learn more about Farm to School and Nutrition Education.
  • The Sparta Area School District Food Court Garden has been developed at Sparta High School, creating a purpose for the old tennis courts. The garden uses raised garden beds and food is harvested by volunteers for the school food service program, school district Food Pantry at Meadwoview School and enjoyed by those who volunteer. Fruits, vegetables and herbs typically grown in the garden are strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, dill, cilantro, beans, peppers, squash, and more.
  • Students participate in Kids in the KitchenKids in the Kitchen nutrition program that provides guided cooking instruction to students. This program goes into our intermediate school has kids measuring, cutting, chopping and mixing ingredients to prepare a Harvest of the Month recipe to serve to their peers.

Those interested in getting involved with Monroe County Schools on the Go should contact Project Coordinator Autumn Grooms at (608) 269-3151 or email agrooms@spartan.org. There are opportunities with school gardens, advisory committees, planning and more.