Sunday, Nov 23, 2014
Agri Leader

Organizers hope healthier diets reach Wis. families Farm-to-school program sends home recipes that call for local, fresher fare


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DE PERE, Wis. - Ella Kadletz came home from school recently and made what is probably an unusual afternoon snack for a fifth-grader: hummus and veggies.

Ella, a student at Westwood Elementary School in the West De Pere School District, brought the recipe home in a newsletter that is part of her school's involvement with a farm-to-school program this year.

Ella and her mom Jen, as well as 3-year-old sister Kaida, combined chickpeas, lemon and other ingredients to create the healthy snack.

The family interaction is a big goal of the farm-to-school program, said Ashley Ponschok, Live54218 farm to school coordinator. Live54218, a local nonprofit that aims to promote healthier lifestyles in Brown County, is coordinating Green Bay area farm-to-school efforts.

Eight local school districts - Green Bay, Ashwaubenon, Oneida, De Pere, Pulaski, West De Pere, Howard-Suamico and Wrightstown - have signed on to farm-to-school programs in the past two years.

"It's really important to bring the message that the kids are learning at school back to the home so they can get it again," Ponshok told Press-Gazette Media. "If their parents feel strongly about the same things their teachers are telling them, kids are more likely to develop those lifelong eating habits."

Live54218 encourages families to discuss its monthly newsletter, which is sent home with students participating in the farm-to-school program. It includes information about the harvest of the month - a particular local fruit or vegetable - as well as suggestions about how to eat the item, a recipe using the selection, places or farms to find local produce and fitness facts.

"The idea is to start young," Ponschok said. "We develop behaviors from a young age. If we can get them when they're young, they learn those behaviors and they carry with them through their lives.

"We've noticed that pattern change, with how fast and quick people live their lives, they go for the easy things. If we teach kids that healthy things can be easy as well, they can translate that into their lives and families as they grow up."

Schools usually have family events such as health or information nights, and Live54218 tries to be present for those as a way to reach parents with farm to school and other information.

Jen Kadletz said her kids are healthy snack eaters and she goes over the farm-to-school newsletter with Ella.

"I'll go through it and say 'Oh, did anyone come in or did you do any taste testing or what happened in school?' And that's sort of how we'll get into it," Jen said. "Then we'll look at it, and if there's a recipe we're interested in, we'll set a day and time and we'll go get the ingredients and we'll make it."

This month's harvest was dried beans, and Jen said she was surprised to learn Ella liked black bean corn salsa at school.

"I'm surprised to hear her say she tried the black bean and corn salsa," she said. "I think how the food appears sometimes can play a role in whether or not they'll try it. So that made me feel good that she tried it, and that's something that we'll prepare at home."

Kaitlin Tauriainen, food services nutrition coordinator for the West De Pere School District, said educators want students to share what they have learned at home.

"At school we try to let kids try new things and to introduce them to their diets," she said. "Hopefully they will go back home and hear about the same foods and the family will try them. But we can only do so much at the school, and parents have to be willing to take some of it on.

"It's kind of a Catch-22. If they get introduced to something and don't see it at home, will they remember it or want to try it again? It's great when you can give them something and it translates into the home."

Carissa Teaters, a first-grade teacher at Danz Elementary School in Green Bay, said the farm-to-school program has influenced her students.

"They are pretty willing to try the new foods Live54218 brings in," she said. "And students take home the newsletters to parents each month. And I know they are there for parents events, and that parents also can taste test."

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