By Laura Apfelbeck, FoodWIse Coordinator & Elena Garcia, UW-Green Bay Dietetic Intern
One in five Wisconsin children are food insecure, a situation worsened by COVID-19. Food insecure households do not have the food they need or are uncertain they will be able to get it. Poor nutrition leads to poorer school outcomes, poorer health outcomes, lower life expectancy, and increased healthcare costs. In Wisconsin, food insecurity among families with kids rose from 9% common in 2015-2019 to nearly 23% in April-June 2020.
Emergency food programs are trying to assist but struggle to afford fresh food. Food pantries may receive donated produce near or past expiration dates. Since vitamins deplete over time, older produce is less nutritious. In light of these issues, FoodWIse has partnered with multiple organizations to offer support.
Earlier this year, Fork Farms of Appleton announced a plan to help nonprofits acquire hydroponic grow systems as part of their response to COVID-19. FoodWIse proposed the idea for using Flex Farms to grow and distribute fresh greens to low-income people. A single Flex Farm can produce over 20lbs of greens each month.
In June, Fork Farms matched the Hmong Senior Meals project with a funder, UnitedHealthcare who generously donated a Flex Farm system. Since senior meal programs are impossible right now, Master Gardeners agreed to grow greens for one year for donation. First Presbyterian Community Meals will serve fresh green salad at the weekly community meal and Salvation Army Food Pantry will promote and distribute bagged salad greens.
As part of the wrap around programming, UW-Green Bay Dietetic Intern Elena Garcia created materials to promote consumption of greens by kids and healthy dressing recipes. Her two videos can be found utilizing the videos below: