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Getting Healthy Foods to Wisconsin Schools

PHOTO: Getting healthy and locally grown food onto the lunch plates of Wisconsin school children is the goal of grants to Wisconsin school districts, food growers and distributors. Photo courtesy UW Extension Service.

PHOTO: Getting healthy and locally grown food onto the lunch plates of Wisconsin school children is the goal of grants to Wisconsin school districts, food growers and distributors. Photo courtesy UW Extension Service.
June 25, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - It's often challenging to get good, healthy, locally grown food onto the lunch plates of school children, but 17 state Agriculture Department grants to producers, distributors and schools will be used to make that process easier.

Sarah Elliott, a program supervisor with the Agriculture Department, said there's a strong trend to get more locally sourced food into school kitchens.

"I think there's a lot of opportunity for producers here in Wisconsin to tap into the market," she said. "This specific program is designed to enhance access to all local markets, but with special attention paid to the school market."

The money, a total of $47,000, comes from the "Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin" program, through the "Transform Wisconsin" fund. The grants are going to food producers and distributors, and to various school districts around the state.

Elliott said schools represent a unique market.

"The school market is a very stable market," she said. "Schools tend to need very similar quantities of products on a very regular schedule, and that can be really advantageous for a lot of producers."

She said those receiving the funds will get one-on-one professional help to expand their markets and improve profitability - all with a goal of getting more local food into local markets.

Elliott said food producers will likely use the money for a wide variety of needs, but distributors and schools have more narrow applications for the funds.

"The distributors may be doing business planning or some financial forecasting; in the schools category, there is less variety," she said. "Almost all of the schools are looking to hire a consultant or a chef to help them create menus that incorporate local food and meet the nutritional requirements."

She said the school districts also can use their funds to provide staff training to procure and prepare fresh, seasonal produce.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI