- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin’s school districts buy plenty of local fruits and vegetables for their lunchrooms, according to federal agriculture officials.

But a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed the districts could do better in purchasing dairy products from local farmers. Thirty-two percent of schools involved in the Farm to School program are buying milk from local sources, and 22 percent of schools are purchasing other dairy products, such as cheese, locally.

Farm to School is a national program that aims to bring locally sourced foods into school cafeterias, while also educating students about the origins of their sustenance.

The USDA census shows 59 percent of 315 Wisconsin school districts that responded to a survey are involved in the Farm to School program. Eighty percent are buying local fruits and vegetables for their students.

The state’s schools have “hit it out of the ballpark” with the amount of locally sourced fruits and vegetables they provide for their students, said Deborah Kane, the national director of the USDA program.

“Schools probably got started by bringing fruits and vegetables into their salad bars or into their lunches, but it’s probably time for Wisconsin to go a little further,” Kane said.

The dairy industry is an important component of Wisconsin’s economy. Wisconsin produced 27.6 billion pounds of milk and 2.9 billion pounds of cheese in 2013, the Daily Tribune Media (https://wrtnews.co/1DeDw01 ) reported, citing figures from the state Department of Agriculture.

Kane, who spoke Thursday at the Wisconsin Farm to School Summit, said the cafeteria should be an extension of the school’s education, not just a place where students rush through.

“What if the kinds of foods that the kids are eating in the cafeteria are then used in science class or discussed in math class?” Kane said, adding, “What if school lunch looked, and felt a little more like, family meal time?”

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Information from: Daily Tribune Media, https://www.wisconsinrapidstribune.com

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