SAUK CITY (SAUK PRAIRIE EAGLE) -- As part of its effort to introduce more locally grown foods to the community, the Sauk Prairie School District is offering families the opportunity to buy produce directly from a small local farm.
Twenty families signed up for the first community supported agriculture program offered by the Sauk Prairie School District. The CSA was a collaboration between the district's food service department and the Sauk Prairie Community Education Center.
"It actually came about with our food service director wanting to get it started because the school district had already made a commitment to purchasing as much local produce as possible," said Mary Ann Marx, the community education coordinator.
Megan Smith, the food services director for the school district, said she saw that CSAs were common in Madison and wanted to start one in Sauk Prairie. With a CSA, a family actually purchases a share of a farmer's crop and each week receives a delivery of fresh produce.
This first year Smith said the district only partnered with one farm - Hillsong Ridge Farm - because the farm was new and had the most openings. Participating families paid $879 to receive a large box filled full of produce for four or more people every week for 20 weeks. A standard box - recommended for two to three people - cost $550 for 20 weeks or $27 a week.
Smith said most CSAs require people to drive to the farm to pick up the weekly boxes of produce, but with the school district organizing it, families can pick up their bundles every week at the community center in Sauk City.
While the sign-up date to participate in the CSA this year has passed, Marx said the department is working to expand the program next year with a greater selection of local farms and more members. Also, Marx said that by next year most people should be able to pay a portion of the CSA's cost with a wellness bonus from their health insurance.
Smith said the CSA is available to anyone in the community, and she envisions it as a "community wellness" initiative that dovetails with her efforts to make locally grown and produced foods a bigger part of the school district's meal program.
In the schools, Smith said almost all the lettuce used is from a local farm in North Freedom and she is incorporating ground beef from Black Earth Meats into the menu. In the fall, she hopes to begin using more local produce.
She said a recent hike in school lunch prices - 15 cents at the elementary school and middle school and 25 cents at the high school - is helping defray the cost of using more local foods, which tend to be more expensive, even if that wasn't the reason for the increase.
Smith said the price increase was to bring the school district in line with new federal regulations.