Joan Fischer recently had a nice piece in grow, the magazine of the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS). In it, she examines many of the challenges and successes of efforts to bring fresh, local produce into schools. For example, she notes that
Children at schools with Farm to School programs consumed 40 percent more fruits and vegetables than kids at schools just starting Farm to School. Moreover, students in schools with several years of Farm to School programs were more likely to choose a greater variety of fruits and vegetables.
And Wisconsin kids need that help. Nearly a fourth of high school students are overweight or obese. “Many children consume diets in which more than 25 percent of their energy comes from sugar, and one in three high school students consumes fruit or vegetables less than once per day,” notes [CALS nutritional sciences professor Dale] Schoeller. “This diet pattern is associated with excess weight gain. A change in the diet pattern is needed, and one place to start that change is in school meal programs.”
His study of Farm to School has made him a believer in the program not as a magic bullet but as part of a long-term strategy toward better eating habits.
“This is something that needs to be done more broadly and year after year,” Schoeller says. “It’s not like getting an inoculation—something that you do once and it lasts for years. It has to be constantly reinforced until it becomes an ingrained behavior.”