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students in front of Badger Rock Community Garden sign

Noah Reinkober, a student in the UW Madison School of Human Ecology, joined us this fall as a Farm to School intern, supporting Director Allison Pfaff Harris and REAP's partnership with MMSD Food and Nutrition. The following article was researched and written by Noah. Many people today are familiar with the concept of a “food desert," not just those in academia or the fields of sociology and human ecology. The term, which began being used in the 1990s, refers to a neighborhood, often in an urban environment, which has very little access to food. People living in a food desert may have restaurants in the area, but have to travel far to purchase foods at a grocery store, or they may simply be lacking in nearby food entirely. As the understanding of this issue has progressed over the last few decades, activists and researchers have proposed different labels for these areas. “Food swamp," a term which came into usage about a decade ago, refers to the same areas, but emphasizes the fact that these neighborhoods are often saturated with unhealthy foods, rather than lacking food entirely. Both of these terms are misleading when it comes to the conversation about food access, however. Deserts and swamps, unpleasant as they’re often perceived to be, are natural parts of the global environment with unique and thriving ecosystems. Neighborhoods which are deprived of healthy food options are not naturally occurring. To better describe this phenomena, Karen Washington, a Black farmer, activist, and organizer, came up with the term “food apartheid.” Rather than labeling a lack of food access as a natural occurrence, Washington’s term explicitly states the role that politics, economics, and histories of classism and racism play in the matter.  Food apartheid occurs when institutions fail to invest in communities which need the investment the most. Food apartheid occurs when institutions fail to invest in communities which need the investment the most. Segregation, poor public transportation, redlining, high food prices, lack of access to growing land, and perceived lack of profitability for private businesses are just a few examples of things which inform food apartheid, all of them products of society, not nature. Karen Washington grew up in New York City, so that is the context from which she is working, but the systemic racism and classism which created food insecurity in NYC exists in Madison, WI too.  According to Nicholas Heckman, a Public Health Planner in Policy and Food Security in Madison, because of how new the concept is, food apartheid “hasn’t yet been effectively measured at the local level.” Rather, data around food access and food insecurity often comes from the state or county, and researchers must use “various proxy data points and population characteristics to draw conclusions.” Though now dated, and lacking the context of COVID-19, Heckman’s 2016 report, Hunger and Food Security in Wisconsin and Dane County, sheds some light on the disparities which exist on the state and county levels. In 2016, it was reported that 12.4% of all people in Wisconsin, and 11.8% in Dane...

On Tuesday, May 24, REAP Food Group, in partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition, zoomed into classrooms for our second Virtual Farm Tour, this time with farmers Patty and Ky of Wonka's Harvest in Hollandale.   Geared to grades K-5, the live presentation included an experiment demonstrating the benefits of no-till agriculture using various soil mediums. Patty and Ky answered questions from students about the favorite crops they grow, and they shared their love of bees. Watch a recording of the tour, and consider following Patty and Ky's lead and improve your own garden soils with compost! Virtual Farm Tours are made possible through a grant and brought to classrooms by REAP Food Group, in partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition in an effort to deliver the sights and smells of Wisconsin-grown foods to MMSD classrooms through virtual farm tours, videos, and books. Shiftology Communication Virtual Farm Trips® facilitated the tours. The unique PR firm offers "one-of-a-kind learning experiences by connecting participants to real working farms from the comfort of their computers, classrooms, conference rooms and living rooms." https://youtu.be/hmk7bahUJCQ ...

On Thursday, May 5, REAP Food Group, in partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition, zoomed into eighty-three classrooms for a Virtual Farm Tour at Vitruvian Farms in McFarland. The tour marked the first in an ongoing series to deliver the sights and smells of Wisconsin-grown foods to MMSD classrooms through virtual farm tours, videos, and books.  Geared to grades K-5, the live presentation included a tour of the farm led by co-owner Tommy Stauffer*, poll questions for the nearly 1,500 students gauging their knowledge of, and like--or dislike--of mushrooms, and a Q&A for Tommy. Hosts discovered that the students already had a rich vocabulary in mushroom varieties, and were at least amenable to tasting them! Watch a recording and stay tuned for the next tour at Wonka's Harvest in Hollandale before schools close for the summer. Virtual Farm Tour is made possible through a grant and brought to classrooms by REAP Food Group, in partnership with Madison Metropolitan School District (MMSD) Food and Nutrition. Shiftology Communication Virtual Farm Trips® facilitated the tour. The unique PR firm offers "one-of-a-kind learning experiences by connecting participants to real working farms from the comfort of their computers, classrooms, conference rooms and living rooms." *Tommy Stauffer is also a REAP Food Group board member. https://youtu.be/FxqWG0x0Mgs ...

Pachamama es Vida by Julio Cachiguango

On November 23, REAP Executive Direction Helen Sarakinos teamed up with Mariela Quesada Centeno of Roots4Change in a thought-provoking FB Live conversation with the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies on Food Innovations in COVID-19. The pair shared the roots of and lessons learned from the collaborative Farms to Families Fund (FFF) which provided food for Latino families and supported local farmers and food producers hard-hit by COVID-19 from Spring, 2020-Spring, 2021. WI State Assembly Representative Francesca Hong, Grassroots Farm LLC farmer and Monticello Community Kitchen Co-op co-founder FL Morris, and La Crosse Environmental Sustainability Planner Lewis Kuhlman joined in the panel, sharing their own unique projects to improve food access during the pandemic. Watch the entire conversation here. ...

REAP and our Farm Fresh Atlas partners were recently in the national spotlight! We were featured in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Seeds of Success series which highlighted a USDA Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program grant we received in 2016. The grant was awarded to launch, promote, and study the effects of a searchable, mobile-friendly, and online Farm Fresh Atlas. This support allowed us to create a consolidated Farm Fresh Atlas website for all state-wide Atlas publications. As a result: Atlas listees sales increased 50% from 2017 to 2019 Weekly customer counts increased 293% from 394 in 2017 to 1,500 in 2019 A three-year economic survey of farmers indicated 80% had increased sales resulting from the guides, an increase of $4.1 million in the state farm economy Forty-six beginning farmers and 322 experienced farmers received marketing training and resources to further advance their businesses Thank you so much to the USDA for their support of this project! It is an honor to publish the Farm Fresh Atlas of Southern Wisconsin each year and to advocate for Wisconsin's farmers and food producers. To view the entire report, please click here. ...

REAP applauds the Governor's and DATCP's focus on Wisconsin farmers and food. On Friday, February 5, Governor Evers announced a $43M investment in local farms and food systems in the upcoming state budget. The plan is wide reaching but we are excited to see the unprecedented focus on small farms, local food system infrastructure and higher investment in conservation programs - initiatives that bring us all closer to a just local and sustainable food system in Wisconsin. Our friends at Wisconsin Farmers Union do a terrific job of advocating for good food farmers at the State Capitol and their analysis of the budget initiatives is a great resource if you want to dive deeper. Governor Evers' budget incluces the following investments (a full list of the proposed actions found here): Invest $20M to help connect Wisconsin food banks and pantries with Wisconsin producers;Fund the Farm-to-School Grant Program ($400K over biennium);Create and Fund Farm-to-Fork to build connections between farmers and non-school entities looking to purchase local food for their cafeterias ($552K over biennium);Increase the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program ($350K over biennium);Provide additional funding for Something Special from Wisconsin marketing program ($400K over biennium);Create and fund a Small Farm Diversity Grant program – support producers adding new products, increasing production of an ag product where market opportunities exist, or starting a new farming operation ($250K over biennium). "Coming out of a brutal pandemic, these initiatives are a wise and welcome investment in rural revitalization and food security," says REAP Executive Director Helen Sarakinos. "This budget represents a needed first step to rebuild resilience in our food system so Wisconsin farmers can feed Wisconsin residents." Every day, REAP works with our partners and supporters to develop local food supply chains, strengthen connections between community and farmers and grow the voices calling for a resilient food system. We couldn't agree more that it's time to join this fight for Wisconsin farmers to ensure a good future in Wisconsin for farmers, for eaters and for our clean water and land. REAP has advocated for funding Farm to School grants and programs in DATCP, for COVID-19 relief payments to benefit small and beginning farmers and we have worked hard to support farms that were hard-hit when closures of farmers' markets and businesses shut down their sales. So, what can you do? Stay informed! Sign up to receive our weekly newsletter to stay on top of REAP's work and opportunities to get involved. You should also follow us on Facebook and Instagram, where we post thought-provoking articles about food and sustainability. We will be posting updates and sharing additional opportunities to act in the coming months Voice your support! We ask you to take a moment to thank Governor Evers for valuing small farms and local food systems and for walking the walk. Let them know this budget reflects what matters to Wisconsin residents! Your email or phone call mattes and it only takes a moment.Call: Governor's Office: 608-266-1212,Email: share your approval online at this site.It doesn't have to be long, simply state who you...

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