For a savings of $132,800 over two years, the Walker administration could be putting in jeopardy a program that brings fresh produce from Wisconsin farmers to school kids. Seems like the governor's cost-benefit analysis may have missed something.
Wisconsin’s farm-to-school program, as the Journal Sentinel’s Annysa Johnson explained in an article Wednesday, is part of a national movement “aimed at improving school nutrition, expanding markets for local growers and increasing public understanding of how food makes it from the farm to your plate.”
Nearly half the state's 424 districts — and 1,401 schools serving more than 565,000 students — took part in some way, generating $9.2 million in sales for Wisconsin growers and related businesses, according to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, Johnson reported.
Walker’s budget wouldn’t end the program but it would remove the now-vacant office of coordinator and 15-member advisory council of the state’s Farm to School office. Program supporters say that removing the position instead of filling it would eliminate a critical element in ensuring the program runs smoothly. Without someone to consider the overall picture and work on the supply chain issues that pose barriers the momentum Wisconsin has built in recent years could be slowed or reversed.
"Farm to school uniquely sits at the intersections of education, public health, agriculture and economic development. And it's not every day that those players sit at the same table," said Helen Dombalis, interim policy director for the National Farm to School Network. "Without that coordinator position, those folks may not sit at the same table. They may not figure out how to make it work to get local foods into schools."
That’s a pretty big risk to run just to save $132,800 over two years. The Legislature should fix this by restoring the funding.