Q: What IS “Farm2School”? A: Farm to School (commonly abbreviated F2S) is a catch-all term for programs that involve moving local foods into school meals. F2S programs may include procurement of local foods, nutrition or agricultural education, school gardens and taste tests. Programs differ greatly by area, but there are now operational programs spanning all 50 states.
Q: Why is Farm2School important? Why does it matter if I eat locally grown foods? A: Research related to Farm2School is ongoing, but benefits known to date include:
- increased fruit and vegetable consumption by students
- increased student willingness to try new, healthy foods
- overall academic improvement
- positive diet and lifestyle changes among teachers
- increased diversification and new market opportunities for local farmers
There are also numerous reasons to purchase local foods! They include:
- food is fresher, and tastes better than food that’s been shipped long distances from other states or countries
- buying local enables you to ask questions of the grower about how the food was grown, stored or prepared
- you’re supporting local families and local farms
- Wisconsinites spend about $192 billion on food annually – if just 10% of that money was spent locally, it would mean $1.9 would stay in our community.
- protect the environment and decrease your carbon footprint
- get in touch with the seasons, and get to know your region better
One of the best ways to find local foods is to visit one of our many area Farmers’ markets.
Q: What schools currently participate in the Coulee Region Farm2School program? A: All public elementary, middle and high schools in the La Crosse, West Salem, Onalaska, Holmen, Bangor and La-Crescent-Hokah school districts are participating Farm2School sites! Whoo!
Q: Why isn’t my school participating? A: There are many challenges to bringing local foods to school meal programs, and funding to do so is limited. Farm2School is still growing, and is always looking for volunteers to help move the initiative forward. If you are interested in helping out, or would like more information about how to get your school involved, email Maggie Smith or Tiffany Lein, program coordinators.
Q: What types of activities does Coulee Region Farm2School offer? What foods have you served? A: We offer a Harvest of the Month program, meaning each month one local food is highlighted in meals, offered in taste tests and cooking demos, promoted in newsletters and featured in recipes. Farm2School also helps support school gardens, supports overall school wellness goals, provides promotional materials for the lunch line and brings chefs and cooking demonstrations to the schools. Some schools also offer classroom lessons and curriculum tie ins.
Q: You offer a Harvest of the Month. Why don’t you offer other local foods too? A: We do! Specific items vary by school, but many schools serve other local fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy and grains. All districts serve local milk. Check with your school food service director to learn more about what your school offers!
Q: Why do you offer so many weird foods? My child likes potatoes, but not kohlrabi. And what’s up with the pizza crust? Why did it change? A: The Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act was passed in 2010, and changes the requirements school meals must meet. The Act requires a number of changes, among them are decreased amounts of sodium and saturated fat and increased amounts and varieties of fruits, veggies and whole grains. These changes take effect gradually, and help ensure kids are offered healthy choices at school. As for why we offer “weird” foods, we like to expose kids to new and exciting things that are in season and grown locally. Farm2School helps source a variety of local foods, including more common items, like onions and potatoes! Encourage your child to try the new foods – they may like them! Or check out our recipes and make them at home!
Q: Why can’t every meal be organic/local/unprocessed/vegetarian/sugar free/etc.? Why aren’t you doing more? A: School food is a complicated, heavily regulated world, and many factors come into play – the Midwest growing season (most things are not in season while school is in session), food costs, labor costs, food safety, safe growing practices, limited kitchen facilities, food waste, student acceptance, etc. It’s also important to note that nutrition is very personal, and your family may have different goals and needs than another. All school meals do meet the guidelines set by the USDA. We are still growing, and making changes, but the process does take time! Additionally, many of the local fruits and vegetables offered are organic – though it may not be advertised. If you’re interested in helping us out contact Maggie Smith or Tiffany Lein.
Q: Why doesn’t my school have a school garden? A: Many schools are in the process of starting gardens, and some just need someone to spearhead the movement! View the schools with garden initiatives by clicking here. For more info, contact Maggie Smith or Tiffany Lein.
Q: Can you force or require my child to try the new foods? They are so picky! OR My child felt pressured to try new foods at school, does Farm2School force kids to try new foods? A: We do encourage children to give new foods a try – even just a little bite! But we’ll never force or require it. Research says that children need to be exposed to a food numerous times before they’ll accept it. Parents play a huge part in this – offer fruits and vegetables frequently, even if your child “doesn’t like” them. Your persistence will pay off! Kids may try a food that’s been prepared differently (example: fresh carrots vs. canned or roasted vs. steamed) and find that they do like it! You can also set a good example by eating lots of healthy foods yourself – check out our recipes for ideas. If your child takes school meals, they may be required to take a fruit and/or vegetable with their meal – this is due to federal meal regulations and ensures that your child is offered a balanced meal. Encourage your child to try the fruits and veggies they take!
Q: Which farms do you work with? A: Lots of them! We try to stay as local as possible, but for specialty crops we sometimes work with farms a littler further away (blueberries from Bayfield, WI, for example). We often work with several farms at a time as schools need large amounts of foods – sometimes more than one small farm could grow – for this reason we coordinate much of our procurement through Fifth Season Cooperative, a local food hub.
Q: My child’s class didn’t get to participate in XYZ activity. How come? A: Farm2School is still growing, and has limited resources. Many schools are limited in time and resources as well. Additionally some activities are targeted at a specific grade level. The taste tests in the cafeteria, the monthly newsletters and of course, the local foods available at meals are open to all! We encourage you to connect with your school’s principal or food service director if you have a specific concern.
Q: We don’t usually buy school meals…can my child still participate in Farm2School activities? A: Yes! Taste tests are offered in the cafeterias of all elementary schools involved, and are available for students with cold lunch, as well as teachers and staff. Just ask! Other activities, like cooking classes or presentations, are offered for an entire classroom or classrooms, not just for the kids who eat meals at school. Check with your school administrators for more info about which classrooms participate.