HOUGHTON COUNTY – The Covid pandemic put a lot of things into perspective for educators, including the need for a sustainable local food supply, and the rising cost of food. The Western UP Planning and Development Region saw the need. And the organization is partnering with local schools, farmers and an organization called Taste the Local Difference, to bring fresh local food into school cafeterias. Western U.P. Local Food Coordinator Madelina DiLisi was brought in to help develop partnerships between schools and local farmers.
Farm to school program really have the potential to bring meaningful change to our communities. It increases food access, nutritional assistance, but also learning opportunities for school age children. And there’s studies that show children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables when they know where they’ve been grown or how they’re grown. – Madelina DiLisi, Western UP Local Food Coordinator Taste the Local Difference
Thanks to the farm to school program, nearly a dozen farmers across four western U.P. counties and several schools are working together to fight food insecurity. The program also cuts cost for schools, by providing locally grown fruits and veggies. The organizations are working hard this month to develop a directory that allows schools to order item
But its hard when you don’t have those connections between the schools and the farms. It can be difficult to hop on, and say “hey I want to sell to you”. So really what we’re doing is laying the foundation. and we’d love to make this applicable for other rural communities, whether its in the Midwest or nationally. We think that this has a lot of good opportunities to learn and to be replicated across the state. – Madelina DiLisi
Organizers say the farm to school program increases access to healthy and nutritious foods for kids in the area. It also teaches students how food is grown and cultivated. For school districts is interested in joining the program, or for farmers who might want to participate, contact Madelina DiLisi and Taste the Local Difference at madelina@localdifference.