Despite some other local media reports, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture will not be suspending its Farm2School program. Department officials said Thursday the program is currently without a coordinator but it will still be funded.
Locally, the Coulee Region Farm2School program is going strong. Its partnership with Gundersen and Mayo Health Systems will help sustain the program's services.
Each year, almost 89 million lunches are served in schools across Wisconsin. But not all of them are necessarily healthy.
Farming, aims to change that.
"It benefits the La Crosse area in a multitude of different ways," said Tiffany Lein, co coordinator with the Coulee Region Farm2School.
The Farm2School program is currently allowing nearly half a million students in the state to benefit from healthy lunches.
"Of course we're benefiting the local farmers by getting the produce into the schools, but it's also benefiting the kiddos who get to try new fruits and vegetables and just our local community," said Lein.
Thanks to local efforts, the program in La Crosse is able to provide six school districts in the county with farm-to-tray opportunities.
"So Coulee Region Farm2School started with a lot of federal grant programs, and we've since weaned off the grant programs and now we're funding it at a local level," Lein said.
Farm to institution specialists say La Crosse's partnership with local school districts and area medical centers, has allowed schools in the Coulee Region to continue to bring healthy meals into their cafeterias.
"Because the La Crosse program has been around for so long, and have such embedded support, they're really really in a good position to sustain themselves for a long time and I think that a lot of other programs throughout the state aren't necessarily working with the same capacity," said Vanessa Herald, farm to institution specialist at UW-Madison's Center for Agricultural Systems.
The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture will not be moving forward on filling a coordinator position for the state's farm to school program. The department is waiting until the 2017-2019 budget is more clear.
Gundersen Health System and Mayo Clinic Health System will each kick in $30,000 during the next three years.
The La Crosse County Health Department is also providing the program with another $30,000.