Putting farm-fresh foods in front of kids, the USDA added a scoop of support for a Wisconsin school recipe.
The La Crosse County Health Department launched a Farm-to-School program to shift local fruits and vegetables from side dishes to entrees.
“Our farm to school program for the last nine years has worked really hard to get local foods on the plate,” Maggie Smith, health educator, said. “We heard from parents taking surveys that they wanted to see a locally-sourced entree.”
The result boiled down to a taste-tested and approved chili recipe with vegetables that were grown locally and frozen to last through the school year. The final product was approved by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction.
The health department did a soft, statewide launch last year and had 75,000 participants in the Wisconsin Chili Lunch. Staff furthered those efforts by applying for a grant with the USDA. They received $100,000 to be used in two years.
“What that will do is it will really put legs under the project and give us the ability to work with different growers,” Smith said. “We are looking at some dried beans that are grown locally. We are looking to grow those supply-chains among frozen food products and make them more accessible statewide.”
The health department will also develop separate recipes to accommodate the needs or resources of different districts across the state.
Separate from the chili grant, Smith said they are also looking to develop locally-sourced breakfast items for students.
The chili lunch will be served in La Crosse County Schools as well as La Crescent and Hokah on November 14. The Wisconsin Chili recipe can be found online.