NEWS

After two years of conversations and planning with local farmers, institutions and stakeholders, REAP's answer to getting more fresh, local produce into institutions that feed and care for all residents is off the ground. On Monday, July 15, six employees arrived at the Madison College culinary arts kitchen for their first day washing, chopping and bagging local cauliflower and broccoli for REAP's vegetable processing initiative. The initiative has brought together some of Madison's largest institutions - UW Health, UW Dining and the Madison Metropolitan School District - to increase the amount of local, sustainably-grown produce purchased from Wisconsin farms and served to those who use these institutions. It addresses one of the biggest barriers local farmers face in supplying produce to large-scale buyers. "Small farms in Wisconsin lack the capacity to wash, chop and bag fresh, local produce to supply institutional buyers," said Brianna Fiene, REAP's Farm to Business Director.  "Likewise, anchor institutions like hospitals, universities and schools also lack the capacity to process fresh, locally grown produce. They are limited to purchasing pre-processed items from outside of the state while our own Wisconsin farmers struggle to establish local markets." REAP's pilot project will bridge that gap by sourcing, washing, chopping and bagging fresh, local produce to supply to these institutions in Madison. Partner institutions have committed to purchasing more than $100,000 worth of value-added produce from the project in its first year. REAP is working with grower cooperatives representing more than 75 sustainable family farms in Wisconsin. "This project will benefit our community in two big ways:  by creating significant markets for Wisconsin family farms and by increasing access to good food for community, including some of our most vulnerable residents - children and the infirm," Fiene said. "Because of the volume of food these institutions order and serve every week, they have so much buying power that they have the ability to move the needle significantly on local purchasing." The project was made possible in part thanks to donations made to REAP's Big Share 2019 campaign, which raised $10,000 in March to launch the pilot....

Madison, Wis (WMTV) -- A free summer food program kicked off today at Aldo Leopold Park. The goal is to make sure no child goes hungry this summer. About sixty kids received a free meal at the park. The city of Madison, REAP Food Group, Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD), Public Health Madison & Dane County are partnering to address food insecurity. The children’s free summer food program provides nutritious meals to all children 18 and under and their families. REAP Food Group and MMSD will be serving meals and providing farm-to-school activities throughout the summer at nearly three dozen sites citywide. WATCH THE SEGMENT HERE...

The Farm Fresh Atlas™ of Southern Wisconsin lists farms, businesses, organizations, restaurants, and farmers' markets that sell food directly to customers. It's your link to great-tasting food grown close to home! There are three ways to access the Farm Fresh Atlas™ of Southern Wisconsin: Online at farmfreshatlas.org View and/or download the print version by clicking here Find a copy of the print version at one of the sites listed below   Find the Farm Fresh Atlas here: Willy Street Co-op North Willy Street Co-op East Willy Street Co-op West Metcalfe's - Hilldale Metcalfe's - West Memorial Union REAP Food Group Viroqua Food Co-op Public Libraries in the following systems: Southern WI Library System Arrowhead Library System Winding Rivers Library System Southwest Public Library System...

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- As the school year is ending, many kids who depend on free or reduced price meals at school might soon be without a meal. The Madison Metropolitan School District is trying to fill that gap with their Summer Food Program. Starting Monday, June 24, kids can eat up to two meals for free at 32 sites around Madison. The sites are open Monday through Friday, serving breakfast, lunch and snack. READ MORE...

From left: Madison East High School occupational therapy team Lisa Jacobson, Kelley Hutchison-Maravilla, and Seth Jawitz-McClellan stand inside the newly renovated East High School greenhouse. Photo by Alyssa Beno. Madison, WI - Students in special education classes at Madison East High School will soon have the opportunity to learn and implement sustainable urban gardening projects with the recent renovation of the school greenhouse. The renovation was done in partnership with REAP Food Group, a Madison-based nonprofit that brings local, sustainably produced food and hands-on agriculture and nutrition education to local schools. Garden-based education is shown to improve students’ knowledge of, and consumption of, fruits and vegetables. “The wealth of research on the benefits of garden education for improving student academic and vocational skills development, as well as physical, social and emotional health outcomes continues to grow,” said REAP’s Farm to School Education Coordinator Haley Traun. “REAP is excited to provide support on an innovative project for deserving students, as well as to engage the larger school community and general public on the advantages of experiential education initiatives designed to reach all students." More than 250 students in special education classes will have access to the greenhouse, where they will learn about and grow vegetables, herbs and flowers alongside REAP’s AmeriCorps Nutrition Educators and local farmers. The project aims to teach students hands-on gardening and business development skills and engage the broader school community through greenhouse and sustainable agriculture activities. “We want it to be a very used, inclusive space, year-round, looking at horticulture but also as a place for mindfulness,” said MMSD occupational therapist Kelley Hutchison-Maravilla. Included in the garden program is hands-on, direct marketing experience as students plan to sell extra plant starts at an end-of-school-year plant sale. The culinary arts program will also use the vegetables and herbs grown in the greenhouse in cooking classes. “One of REAP’s biggest successes was the culinary art program here getting off the ground, getting the AmeriCorps in and then getting the teacher onboard,” said MMSD occupational therapist Lisa Jacobson. “It now runs itself. It’s just a regular component of what happens here at the school so recruiting the right staff members at East to work in conjunction with REAP so this greenhouse can grow food and provide space for kids independent of a single staff member is my goal.” Vegetables and herbs have already been planted in the greenhouse, with lessons planned for May. The project was made possible with funding from North Central Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (NCR-SARE) and the Rotary Club of Madison. “The ability to come in here and see the life transform from seeds and soil into the actual finished product, [the students] always seem to love it,” said MMSD occupational therapist Seth Jawitz-McClellan....

MADISON MAGAZINE - Go beyond farmers’ markets to support local farmers through the Farm Fresh Atlas of Southern Wisconsin, organized by Madison-based REAP Food Group. The Farm Fresh Atlas launched in 2002 as a trifold pamphlet providing information about farms and businesses that support local food. The latest edition consists of 48 pages covering southern Wisconsin. The online website covers the entire state. READ MORE...

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...

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...