Rapids selected as one of five in the nation to participate in healthy foods program
By Taylor J. Hale
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – The Chef Ann Foundation has selected Wisconsin Rapids as one of five school districts nationwide that will participate in their Get Schools Cooking (GSC) program.
The program was created to help schools create a sustainable, scratch-cooked meal program.
District Director of Food Services Elizabeth Messerli said that this is the first time a school from Wisconsin was selected for the program, and it is the only Midwest school to be chosen in 2020.
“We are pretty much the only district in the area to be selected,” Messerli said. “The qualifications included being committed to cooking from-scratch meals, participation in the National School Lunch Program, support from district leaders, and we had to meet the minimum district enrollment of 3,000.”
The school district has a student body of roughly 5,000 and a long history of nutritional awareness. The district currently bakes its own bread for students and grows lettuce and greens at Lincoln High School through their agriculture program.
With roughly 46 percent of district families qualifying for free or reduced meal plans, a student’s school nutrition is seen as a vital component of a child’s development.
The GSC program offers participating schools staff training, consulting, and guidance on their path to a sustainable scratch-based menu. The three-year program also provides a $35,000 grant once districts develop a strategic plan. Funding can be used to help purchase needed equipment or further staff training.
With 18.5 percent of children and adolescents struggling with obesity and nutritional issues, according to CDC reports, Superintendent Craig Broeren is excited to see the healthy foods initiative come to the district.
“We want to bring our food service back to the days where the majority of what we make is from scratch,” Broeren said. “This is really all about training and support.”
Mayor Zach Vruwink was also excited to hear of the program’s decision to work with the city.
“I think it’s paramount to have school districts utilize fresher and healthier options when it comes to feeding children,” Vruwink explained. “We have a childhood obesity crisis in this country. What students are being fed at school plays a role in how healthy kids are.”
Messerli and other district food service members will be attending their first training seminar in late February.
GSC consultants could visit the schools as soon as the end of this school year or the following semester, though no official date has been set.
Other districts included in this year’s selections are Beaufort County, NC; Franklin Special School District, TN; Manhattan-Ogden USD 383, KS; and South Madison Community School Corporation, IN.
To learn more about the Get Schools Cooking program, visit: http://www.chefannfoundation.org/programs-and-grants/get-schools-cooking.