DATCP: Farm to school – connecting kids, farmers, food

AmeriCorps program seeks sites for 2009-10 school year

Contact: Lora Klenke 608-224-5119

Editors: If you would like to feature an AmeriCorps Farm to School project in your area (listed in paragraph 2), you can get contact information by calling or emailing Donna Gilson, 608-224-5130.

MADISON – Here’s a chance to improve kids’ health, support local farmers, and nurture tomorrow’s community leaders – all by signing on to the AmeriCorps Farm to School program.

The program already operates in nine Wisconsin communities: New Richmond, Prairie du Chien, Spooner, Eau Claire, Balsam Lake, Madison, Viroqua, Washburn and Waupaca. Applications are available for new participants for the next school year. A notice of intent to apply is due by Monday, May 4, and final applications are due by Monday, May 25.

Farm to School places two AmeriCorps members in a school or school district, each working half time. One helps find farmers and food businesses that want to sell products to the site, and the other provides information about nutrition and healthy eating through education and outreach. AmeriCorps is a national service program that provides tuition or student-loan payments in exchange for a year or two of community service that also pays a living allowance to participants.

The program is housed in the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The department’s partners in the venture are the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Rural Partners and Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch, a joint project of R.E.A.P. (Research, Education, Action and Policy on Food) and the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.

“Farm to School is an innovative approach to reducing childhood obesity by promoting healthy eating habits, while increasing access to local foods in schools, and opening another market for local farmers and other food businesses,” says Rod Nilsestuen, Secretary of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Farm to School sites may be schools, school districts, or groups of schools or school districts. Applicants to manage the site may be the schools themselves, organizations within schools, or outside groups such as non-profits or county Extension offices. Outside groups must have a letter of support from the schools they intend to serve.

Partner sites provide:

* Assistance in recruiting and hiring volunteers

* An on-site supervisor to oversee and advise AmeriCorps members and track progress

* Orientation, work space, office supplies and phone, computer and Internet access

* Help organizing an advisory council

* $3,500 annually for each pair of AmeriCorps members

* Data about how the program will address nutrition and community needs

Detailed information and applications are available for downloading at http://www.datcp.state.wi.us. For information about Farm to School, call or email Lora Klenke, 608-224-5119, or Doug Wubben, 608-310-7833.