USDA Farm to School Team Site Visit
Chilton Public Schools, Chilton, WI
On September 22-23, 2010, the USDA Farm to School Team had an opportunity to visit two neighboring school districts in Wisconsin to learn about their Farm to School efforts. The Team met with the Food Service Director who oversaw the food service operations for both the Chilton and Hilbert Public School Districts; two rural districts located about 45 miles south of Green Bay, Wisconsin.
In 2009-2010 school year, Chilton and Hilbert Public School Districts served roughly 900 and 450 lunches a day, respectively. Of the students enrolled at Chilton’s two schools, 34% were eligible for free or reduced-priced meals. Hilbert’s five schools enrolled students of which 21% were eligible for free or reduced-priced meals.
For Chilton and Hilbert their Farm to School efforts began in 2005, when the Food Service Director first purchased locally grown apples. The small sized, locally grown apples were a hit with the students. Shortly thereafter a farmer who had heard of the Districts’ interest in buying local products reached out to the Food Service Director to see what other products were needed and the Districts’ efforts grew from there.
Each winter the Food Service Director hosts a growers meeting with current farmers from whom purchases are made, as well as new farmers who are interested in selling to the school districts. At this meeting, an explanation of the purchasing process and the Districts’ Farm to School operations is provided to the farmers. A call to the growers is placed again in August before the start of the school year to find out what crops are expected to be available. During the year, the Director frequently checks in with the farmers to be aware of any unexpected changes in availability. Both Districts offer salad bars in their schools and this allows for more flexibility to purchase locally grown produce items, as well as make adjustments due to unexpected changes in price and availability. In addition to locally grown produce, the Chilton and Hilbert School Districts also procure local, grass-fed beef.
To market their Farm to School efforts, pictures of the local farms the Districts purchase from are provided to the teachers to use in their classrooms and displayed along the service line. This helps educate the kids about where their food comes from, but also builds stronger relationships within the community.
The Chilton and Hilbert Public School Districts’ Food Service Director, Diane Chapeta, offers the following tips to getting started:
- Incorporate a fruit and veggie bar - it not only increases per-capita produce consumption in school children, it also provides the food service director with added flexibility when purchasing local farm fresh produce.
- Get early buy-in from your school board and school administrators. In the case of Chilton and Hilbert, there are farmers on the school board so this was not a hard sell.