Food growers and school district food service directors are being surveyed on the potential for increasing participation in the Farm to School program in Brown County.
This survey is being conducted by Brown County Farm to School Program Coordinator Ashley Ponschok. She will be working with the food service directors in Green Bay, Ashwaubenon and Oneida on a goal of boosting the amount of fresh vegetables and fruits obtained from local sources that are served in school meals.
Survey forms have been sent to both the school food service directors in Brown County and to farmers who have the potential of providing fresh foods to those schools. From the responses, Ponschok hopes to devise the best ways to establish a linkage between those parties and to remove any barriers that might inhibit such a connection.
Beyond asking about the contact information from potential food grower/suppliers, the survey form includes questions about the grower's interest in selling to local schools, whether they have done so in the past, their capability for expanding production, and whether they have production season extending facilities such as a greenhouse or hoop houses.
The survey also inquires about food safety practices such as having a formal food safety plan, the holding of licenses or certifications needed to sell farm produce to a grocery store, restaurant or institutional buyer, the carrying of product and premise liability insurance, and the willingness to be visited by the school food service director or another representative of the school district.
No license is needed for selling fresh vegetables and fruits that are raw or have not been cut, the survey points out.
Regarding food safety, however, the survey contains 14 questions pertaining to the application of manure and the proximity of livestock to the food growing areas, the harvesting practices, the cleaning and handling of produce before delivery, and other factors which could introduce contaminants to the fresh produce.
Another section of the survey asks growers to provide details about ordering, delivery and billing procedures that they would prefer to follow.
The grower's willingness to take part in Farm to School promotions, such as hosting student groups for a visit or being a guest presenter in the classroom, is gauged in the last part of the survey.
In addition to hoping to increase the vegetable and fruit consumption by students, Ponschok wants the Farm to School program to be expanded to include both nutrition education presentations in the classroom and field trips to local farms. Through those three activities, she believes children will make healthier food choices, schools will save money and have better participation in the meals they serve, and the farmers who supply the schools with fresh foods will enjoy an expanding market that would also help the local economy.
Food growers who did not receive the survey and who are interested to learn more about the Farm to School program in Brown County, can contact Ponschok by calling 920-562-5878 (cell) or 920-593-3401 (office). Her mailing address is Live54218 Farm to School Coordinator, 300 N. Broadway, Suite 3A, P.O. Box 1660, Green Bay, WI 54305-1660.