Governor Scott Walker’s budget proposal would cut a major portion of the Farm to School program from the 2017 to 2019 state budget.
The office’s coordinator position and 15 member advisory council would be cut, saving $132,800 over the next two years.
This cut will not prevent disbursement of federal grants targeting farm to school efforts but it will cut the positions in charge of the disbursement. This means that the task of disbursement would be delegated to another office.
Advocates for the program are concerned that without someone to coordinate the efforts, the big picture will be lost and progress that has been made with Farm to School will halt or be reversed.
The program encompasses a broad range of efforts to promote healthy communities.
These efforts bring local foods, hands-on learning activities such as school gardening, farm visits and culinary classes to schools. They also help integrate food-related education into classroom curriculum.
The website for the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction states, “Farm to School promotes the health of children, farms and communities by connecting schools to local farms that supply nutritious, fresh and minimally processed foods.”
Tony Whitefeather said his farm, Whitefeather Organics, has been working with the Farm to School Program for at least six years. Whitefeather is passionate about food education within the community.
“I think it’s super important that we get fresh food into the schools, get kids interested in tasting different things so that they’re more familiar with quality whole foods,” Whitefeather said.
Shelly Stein, junior soil and land management major and president of students for sustainability, said “I’m worried about the decrease in education about organic farming because education is the catalyst to change. I think alternative farming is something that needs to be talked about in schools from a young age.”
Whitefeather said the cut could impact community outreach, and connecting people to food is a vital part of local farming.
“It is one of the main necessities of life and the more we’re connected with it the more holistic someone’s life can be,” Whitefeather said.
Cutting the Farm to School program could have long term effects on local farmers.
Whitefeather said if students are not exposed to local, organic and alternative farming practices from a young age, it does not necessarily become something they prioritize purchasing later in life.
Olivia De Valk