NEWS

As of January 2019, Wisconsin swears in a new governor and begins the process to develop and approve a new two-year state budget. With every new budget, the legislative Joint Finance Committee holds hearings throughout the state to hear what financial issues are on the minds of Wisconsinites. New leadership, and this budget process, present opportunities for farmers, eaters and buyers to let our elected leaders know that developing a strong food economy is good for all of us. REAP has identified some legislative and budget priorities that would strengthen efforts to grow, distribute and buy local and Wisconsin-grown food. Budget Priorities Both Wisconsin’s agricultural businesses and our children’s health benefit from programs that support local food sales and access. 1) Fully fund the Farm to School position and increase funding of Farm to School grant program in the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP): The Farm to School program spurs more than $9 million dollars in purchases of Wisconsin-grown and processed foods by Wisconsin schools each year, and for more than 500,000 students. 2) Increase funding of state Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin grant program: As of 2017, BLBW’s modest $1.2 million investment generated more than $8.4 million in new food sales, made more than $3.9 million in new investments, and created or retained hundreds of jobs. Demand for BLBW grants is high: DATCP turns away five projects for every one they fund. Legislative Priorities 1) Increase the state reimbursement for school lunches and expand reimbursement to school breakfasts: Currently, Wisconsin reimburses school districts enrolled in the National School Lunch Program less than a nickel per meal - a rate unchanged since the 1980s. Raising reimbursement could incentivize purchase of Wisconsin-grown food. 2) Consider a pilot effort to reward schools and school districts for buying local: A pilot effort focused on federal Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program or Special Milk Program can allow the state to develop the most efficient way to scale up these incentives statewide. Big Picture Create opportunities for broader food business innovation for Wisconsin farms: Use the Dairy Business Innovation Center model (matching producers with technical experts and DATCP administration) but with a broader food business innovation focus to broaden opportunities for Wisconsin family farms....

Madison is a city surrounded by sustainable family farms and grappling with food justice issues. How it chooses to link these two issues has real impacts on community, economy and health, but receives little attention. There are many ways residents can help shape actions to improve the health of our community and our environment through good food. We highlight those actions here. When the clock strikes midnight on Jan. 1, 2020, REAP board member Nan Fey hopes to toast three food-focused accomplishments in the city from 2019: • The inclusion of a food hub facility at the former Oscar Mayer site in Madison • Revised policies on pesticide use on city-owned land, with an eye toward protecting pollinator populations • New, lower water use rates for community gardens located on city-owned land Fey will have a particularly good view on the progress of these goals, since she serves as chair of the Madison Food Policy Council, created in 2012 by Mayor Paul Soglin and the Madison Common Council. While the average Madison resident may not know the Madison Food Policy Council exists, it has made huge strides in its mission to develop city-level policies, programs and resources that support a sustainable local and regional food system. Last year, the council granted nearly $160,000 to help Luna’s Groceries set up shop in the Allied-Dunn Marsh neighborhood, its first full-service grocery store in a decade. The council successfully developed a process so residents can have gardens on street terraces and propose plantings on other city-owned lands that produce fruit, seeds and nuts available to the community. Its 23 members accomplish this work through smaller working groups and task forces. Last year was a big year for the council, Fey said, as it successfully advocated for including a number of food systems-related strategies into the city’s 20-year comprehensive plan. These strategies touch on everything from land use and neighborhood access to economic development and sustainability. “The strategy that will make the most difference overall is the commitment to develop a regional food system plan,” Fey said. What to Watch for In 2019 (and Beyond) The biggest “what to watch” item for 2019 in the local food system is the potential for the creation of a regional food hub in Madison. In December, the city budgeted $100,000 for a feasibility study that is expected to be completed by the middle of this year. Initial focus is on the former Oscar Mayer plant but other sites will be considered. The long-awaited Madison Public Market is scheduled to move forward, though recent changes in location have pushed back its opening to 2021. That city-owned project will create more opportunities for residents to access local food in the city and its MarketReady program offers business training, mentorship and start-up capital for emerging food entrepreneurs. MarketReady prioritizes populations facing historic barriers to entrepreneurship including women, people of color, immigrants, low income populations, veterans, displaced workers, and LGBTQ+ individuals. While the Madison Food Policy Council will follow the progress of these projects, it will have no shortage of its own work to do. This...

MADISON, WI - For National Farm to School Month this October, non-profit REAP Food Group is proud to celebrate fresh, sustainable and local food with the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD). Farm to School empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. Throughout the month, a variety of activities and events involving local, fresh food will be held for Madison students, families and the community. These activities will celebrate the Farm to School Project, a 5-year partnership between REAP Food Group and the MMSD Food and Nutrition Services, which aims to increase the amount of locally-grown, fresh foods in district snacks and lunches, and to teach nutrition and agriculture lessons to students and staff. Last year, MMSD served over 113,000 pounds of locally and sustainably grown fruits and vegetables in school meals. “Our goal is nothing less than a generation of Madison students who cheer for frost-sweetened spinach and know farmers on a first name basis,” says REAP Executive Director Helen Sarakinos. “Farm to School sets children up for a lifelong enjoyment of fresh fruit and vegetables.” Highlights of the Project include: The Farm to School Snack Program, which serves a weekly, locally-grown fruit or veggie snack to more than 300 classrooms at 12 MMSD elementary schools. This program is made possible by the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grant provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farm to School Garden Bars, now installed in 42 elementary and middle schools. Garden Bars have resulted in children eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, and in less food getting thrown out. Four AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators, who provide lessons for children on nutrition and agriculture, bring local farmers into classrooms to lead lessons on sustainable agriculture, and welcome Madison-area chefs to teach hands-on cooking lessons to middle and high school students. Uproot by REAP Farm to School food truck, serving healthy, locally-sourced, grab-and-go lunches to students at La Follette, Memorial, East and West high schools four days per week. Farm to School Month is a great opportunity for Madison students to try new foods grown by local family farms, learn about where their food comes from, and to connect with each other on sustainable, fresh and accessible produce. Most Farm to School Month events are open to the press.   Wednesday, Oct. 3 - Farm to School Night Out Farm to School Night Out is an all-day event that encourages the community to dine in or carry out at local restaurants. Twenty-six participating restaurants will donate 10% of their sales from Oct. 3 to REAP’s Farm to School Project. For participating restaurants, visit reapfoodgroup.org/events/nightout.   Thursday, Oct. 11 - Great Lakes Apple Crunch All K-12 schools within MMSD participate in the Great Lakes Apple Crunch again this October. Celebrate this event by crunching into apples that are sourced locally and regionally. REAP’s AmeriCorp Nutrition Educators will get out to Madison schools to get students excited about local foods and apple season, and will provide local apples as well. For more information,...

When Madison students go back to school this week, they will be greeted by new teachers and familiar subjects like reading, writing and math. But thanks to REAP’s Farm to School program, many Madison students will also get to snack on locally grown produce like Concord grapes, learn how to cook a meal from a Madison chef and have the opportunity to buy (or receive for free) a school meal — green chile mac 'n' cheese with barbecue pork, anyone? — from a food truck. REAP Food Group, a nonprofit organization based in Madison, has a mission to grow the local food system in southern Wisconsin. The organization’s Farm to School program, in its 11th year, brings fresh and local food to children; establishes reliable markets for local farms using sustainable agricultural practices; and provides hands-on education in Madison classrooms. READ MORE  ...

REAP Food Group partnered with the Wisconsin Evaluation Collaborative (WEC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to conduct a needs assessment and comprehensive evaluation of the Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and recent improvement efforts. This final report helps identify reasons the SFSP is underutilized, challenges community participants may be experiencing that contribute to low participation rates in the SFSP, and to explore the effectiveness of REAP’s communication and program strategies. The project was made possible with funding from the Wisconsin Partnership Program. READ THE FULL REPORT HERE: Evaluation of the Madison Metropolitan School District Summer Food Program and REAP Food Group Improvement Efforts...