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Ag Coalition Fighting to Reinstate Funding for 'Farm to School'
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 04/21/2017

A group of Wisconsin farm and public health groups would like to see funding restored in the state budget for the Farm to School program. In a letter to members of the Joint Finance Committee on Thursday, 19 organizations asked lawmakers to bring the program back after it was suspended by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture last fall because of uncertain budget projections. It was also eliminated by Governor Scott Walker's proposed state budget draft earlier this year.

"The farm to school program spurs over $9 million dollars in purchases of Wisconsin-grown and processed foods by Wisconsin schools each year, and for over 500,000 students," the letter said. "Funding for the Farm to School program is vital to growing and strengthening vibrant farm to institution market opportunities and programs growing in the state."

Farm to School programming promotes healthy eating habits for students in grades K-12 and works to increase access to local foods in schools. Since its inception in 2009, the initiative has grown to over 390 programs across the state--with over half of a million Wisconsin students benefiting from school meals rich with Wisconsin-grown foods along with nutrition education.

Meanwhile, the letter reminded legislators that the program's project director has been integral in the selection of Wisconsin to participate in a sucessful USDA Pilot Project.

"That allowed Wisconsin schools to divert $1.4 million dollars of their USDA commodity food budgets toward the purchase of Wisconsin-grown fresh fruits, vegetables and other products," the groups noted in the memo. "Wisconsin was one of only eight states selected to participate in this project."

The letter was signed by the Dairy Business Association, FairShare CSA Coalition, Grassworks, Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Midwest Food Products Association, REAP Food Group, School Nutrition Association of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Agri-Business Association, Wisconsin Association of Local Health Departments & Boards, Wisconsin Association of Professional Agricultural Consultants, Wisconsin Cattlemen Association, Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Wisconsin Pork Association, Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, Wisconsin Public Health Association, Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance and Wisconsin Soybean Association.

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