At Gundersen Health System we are an active member of the Farm2School Program. What is this program? The Farm2School program helps to build and establish partnerships between K-5th grade schools and local farmers to encourage healthy eating and proper nutrition among students and their families. This program is unique to each state and it can be found in all states. La Crosse County participates in the Farm2School program, and our Chef at Gundersen, Thomas Sacksteder Certified Executive Chef (C.E.C), supports this local program by visiting local schools during the school year and educating students on healthy eating and recipes. This program also includes a “Harvest of the Month,” in which one local food is selected and promoted throughout schools. Chef Thomas uses the Harvest of the month in his recipes in which he showcases to students and it is then served in the local schools. Because of the success with the Farm2School program, Chef Thomas has received many awards.
In 2011, Chef Thomas received the Wisconsin state “Leadership in Prevention” award, the Prairie View elementary school “Friend of Education award,” and in 2011-2012 he received the Holmen school district/nutrition service “Friend of Education award.” He also received two grants from the American Culinary Federation (ACF) “Chefs move to schools” program. This program enables chefs and schools to form a partnership to encourage healthy eating and proper nutrition for students. This program was started by the First lady Michelle Obama and the White House Senior Policy advisor for healthy food initiatives, Sam Kass in May, 2010. These grants have supported a project created by Chef Thomas called the “Chef Thomas Bean challenge.” In 2012 his challenge reached 1,600 students and by 2013 it reached 5,500 students. Students are given packets of beans at the start of the summer and are encouraged to plant them.
How does the Farm2School program relate to sustainability? The Farm2School program educates students about eating healthy, local food. Showcasing local foods supports local farmers, and the environment. How does this help the environment? Food purchased by local farmers does not have to travel as far which saves fuel and energy which in turn is better for the environment. Buying local also supports the local economy and provides people with fresher food and encourages a healthy lifestyle. If you are part of an institution or an individual interested in partaking in this program check out the helpful links below!