- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker is proposing to eliminate the now-vacant coordinator position and 15-member advisory council of Wisconsin’s Farm to School program as part of his 2017-2019 budget.

The Farm to School office was created in 2009 by the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. It aims to improve children’s nutrition and knowledge of agriculture, secure hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, connect growers and schools, and pump millions of dollars into the state’s economy.

“What a major difference it is to have that fresh produce instead of getting it from a vendor where it might have sat in a warehouse for weeks,” Germantown School District food and nutrition director Shelley Juedes said. “It’s fresher. It looks more appetizing. It’s great for the kids, and it benefits the local farmers. It’s a win-win.”

Cutting the coordinator position and advisory council would save a little less than $133,000 in the budget, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (https://bit.ly/2oXpcwe) reported.

Walker spokesman Tom Evenson said the agency will continue to disburse federal grants for the farm-to-school efforts, and AmeriCorps will keep working on the program’s initiatives in some low-income schools.

But farm-to-school advocates said that without a coordinator who could understand the big picture and work on the supply chain issues, it could slow or reverse Wisconsin’s momentum it’s had in recent years.

“Farm to school uniquely sits at the intersections of education, public health, agriculture and economic development. And it’s not every day that those players sit at the same table,” National Farm to School Network official Helen Dombalis said. “Without that coordinator position, those folks may not sit at the same table.”

According to the 2015 U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm to School Census, nearly half the state’s 424 districts generated $9.2 million in sales for Wisconsin growers and related businesses.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, https://www.jsonline.com

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